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Investing in education may help boost economic opportunities for the next generation

According to economists in the college, investing in public education can lead to more upward economic mobility and lower teen pregnancy rates, as well as provide a way to ease income inequality.

"It's something we've long suspected, but this study really confirms that there's a strong link between the quality of the schools you go to and the opportunities you have later in life," said Stephan Goetz, professor of agricultural and regional economics and director of the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development. "The better your school, the better your economic opportunities."

The study, which focused on public spending in education and returns from education, as well as taxation, indicated that communities that invested more in education had lower dropout rates and fewer teen pregnancies.

The researchers, who released their findings in Economic Development Quarterly, added that reducing the high school dropout rate had nearly twice the beneficial effect on upward mobility as on reducing teen birth rates.

According to the researchers, poor school quality can lead to a cascade of economic and social ills. For example, the lower the school quality, the higher the dropout rate, which can lead to higher numbers of teen pregnancies, said Goetz. The researchers also said that, often, the only way up economically for young people in rural communities is to move out.

The researchers used data from federal income tax records, the Historical Database on Individual Government Finances, the Local Education Agency Finance Survey from 1991 to 2000, the American Community Survey from 2006 to 2010, and County Business Patterns.

--Matt Swayne