The Economic Value of (Computing) Education: For The Entrepreneur and Inventor, too #CSEdWeek

December 11, 2013 at 1:57 am 6 comments

The linked article below provides results I’ve seen before — that the average income of college-educated is much higher than the non-college-educated.  I had not yet seen the below claim: Most inventors and entrepreneurs, the individuals who impact economic growth, are also predominantly college educated.  The model of the college-dropout entrepreneur is the exception, not the rule.  This is important for computing, too, where our model of the dropout CEO of the startup is legendary — but really rare.  If you want to create a computing company, you’re best off getting computing education.

Those who most directly impact economic growth—inventors and entrepreneurs—also tend to be highly educated. A Georgia Tech survey of patent inventors found that 92 percent had a bachelor’s degree, almost exclusively in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) subjects. Likewise, almost all of the founders (92 percent) of the high-tech companies that have powered GDP in recent decades are college educated, especially in STEM fields. Thus, it is no surprise that macroeconomic research finds very large gains from education on economic growth at both the international and regional levels, as the research of Harvard’s Ed Glaeser and many others has shown.

via The Economic Value of Education | Brookings Institution.

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. shriramkrishnamurthi  |  December 11, 2013 at 8:01 am

    There are lots of variables here, so it wouldn’t surprise me if what is being studied and what is being reported are two somewhat different things. However, inasmuch as it tries to combat the “dropout genius” model, it definitely has value.

    That said, do you really see that happening around you? At Brown, at least, it seems very rare for students to think dropping out is a natural thing. I attribute it to (a) it’s hard to get into, (b) they seem to an outstanding cohort feeling, and (c) they may even think they’re learning something here. (It could, of course, also be (d) they’re risk-averse.) Even the one student we had who was in the first round of Thiel Scholars wrote essay and posts about why people should stay in college.

    I don’t dispute that the popular press still has a bit of this image in their minds, though I have no rigorous numbers to back that up. If anything, my perception is that this trope keeps coming up not in the articles but in the _comments_ on articles.

    • 2. Mark Guzdial  |  December 11, 2013 at 9:09 am

      I always assume that anything I’m seeing around here (at Georgia Tech) is a couple standard deviations away from the norm. Remember that the nearly half of all higher-education students are in community colleges. What I see at Georgia Tech (and perhaps what you’re seeing at Brown) is not part of the 90%.

      • 3. shriramkrishnamurthi  |  December 11, 2013 at 11:40 am

        So, to be clear, you’re saying that you think, at the average educational institution around the country, the common rhetoric is in favor of dropping out as a path to entrepreneurship?

        • 4. Mark Guzdial  |  December 11, 2013 at 11:59 am

          I haven’t seen any studies on that yet, that the majority of college students (how I’m interpreting the “common rhetoric”) believe that they should drop out of college as a path to entrepreneurship. So, I’m not saying that. I’m saying that this study shows that the vast majority of entrepreneurs and inventors have pursued higher-education, and that’s interesting. (I’m not trying to pick a fight here — I’m reporting on interesting research that contradicts a perception that I’ve heard from some students and seen in some literature 🙂

          • 5. shriramkrishnamurthi  |  December 11, 2013 at 12:10 pm

            Oh, agreed. I certainly wasn’t trying to argue the point, and I do think having something we can point to when we need to combat this perception is very valuable.

  • 6. gasstationwithoutpumps  |  December 11, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    From an even smaller sample here—I am noticing a tendency for grad students to drop out of grad school to join a startup, but some of them come back later to finish their degrees (sometimes *much* later—we’ve had a couple of VPs of important companies come to our department to get PhDs—one had been an undergrad here, the other had stopped out of a grad program to start a company that later got bought out by a bigger company, where he ended up as VP of research before tiring of industry, coming back to finish his PhD and go off into a faculty position).

    We are very close to the entrepreneurial spirit of Silicon Valley, though we don’t get the number of startups that Stanford gets. I think that even Stanford sees more startups from students just after they finish their degrees than from students who drop out. Dropping out of school to do a startup shows a high level of confidence, but not much patience—a startup needs both.


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