Endangering Prosperity

A Global View of the American School

Eric A. Hanushek, Paul E. Peterson, Ludger Woessmann
Lawrence H. Summers
Release Date: June 19, 2013

The relative deficiencies of U.S. public schools are a serious concern to parents and policymakers. But they should be of concern to all Americans, as a globalizing world introduces new...


Foreword by Lawrence H.  Summers

The relative deficiencies of U.S. public schools are a serious concern to parents and policymakers. But they should be of concern to all Americans, as a globalizing world introduces new competition for talent, markets, capital, and opportunity. In Endangering Prosperity, a trio of experts on international education policy compares the performance of American schools against that of other nations. The net result is a mixed but largely disappointing picture that clearly shows where improvement is most needed. The authors’ objective is not to explain the deep causes of past failures but to document how dramatically the U.S. school system has failed its students and its citizens. Endangering Prosperity is a wake-up call for structural reform. To move forward to a different and better future requires that we understand just how serious a situation America faces today.

Our aspiration must be to create a virtuous circle in which improving education supports a more equal society which in turn supports further education improvement.
—From the Foreword by Lawrence Summers


For example, the authors consider the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), an international mathematics examination. America is stuck in the middle of average scores, barely beating out European countries whose national economies are in the red zone. U.S. performance falls behind that of 32 nations. And while some observers may downplay the significance of cross-globe comparisons, they should note that Canadian students are dramatically outpacing their U.S. counterparts as well.

There are huge economic ramifications.  According to historic impacts on economic growth, bringing U.S. performance to that of Canada would yield increases in average wages that amount to 20 percent for every year during the remainder of the century.


How Much Will The U.S. Pay For Not Paying Attention To Education?

GDP and United States Education


Clearly something is wrong with this picture, and Endangering Prosperity clearly explicates the costs of inaction. The time for incremental tweaking the school system is long past—wider, deeper, and more courageous steps are needed, as Endangering Prosperity amply demonstrates with accessible prose, supported with hard data that simply cannot be ignored.


Praise for Endangering Prosperity:

“America faces many pressures ranging from achieving long-run fiscal balance to maintaining our strong national security. As Hanushek, Peterson, and Woessmann persuasively show, these pressures could be dramatically lessened by improving our schools.”
—George P. Shultz, former U.S. Secretary of State

“Just when you thought we’d reached a consensus on the need to dramatically improve America’s schools, a chorus is emerging to suggest all is well. Endangering Prosperity contains all the facts and figures needed to put an end to such dangerous and misguided thinking.”
—Joel Klein, former Chancellor of New York City schools

“If the United States is to continue to be the experiment in liberty and freedom for which those who founded our great country sacrificed their lives, we must find a way to fix our schools. If we continue on the path we are on, we endanger more than just our prosperity, as the authors of this powerful volume make clear.”
—Jeb Bush, former Governor of Florida

Endangering Prosperity makes a compelling case that K-12 public education in the United States is lagging compared to its international counterparts—and that the issue extends across the socioeconomic spectrum. The economic costs are simply too great, the authors persuasively argue, to accept the timid incrementalism that too often passes for ‘reform.’”
—Chris Cerf, Commissioner of Education, State of New Jersey

“Seen from abroad, it is clear that America’s schools could do better. Endangering Prosperity accurately describes the challenges facing U.S. schools, but also shows the rewards that could come from improvement.”
—Sir Michael Barber, former adviser to U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair

* * *Endangering Prosperity is available in both hardcover and eBook formats:


Eric Hanushek is the Paul and Jean Hanna Senior Fellow in Education at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

Paul E. Peterson is the Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Government and director of the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.

Ludger Woessmann is a professor of economics at the University of Munich.