Why Health Care Costs Are Hurting Education

I never really thought about health care costs and education trends as being fundamentally interrelated, but this point, from Peter Orszag's blog post on "The Case for Reform in Education and Health Care," just makes so much sense:

For years now, there has been a long-running trend toward declining State investments in public universities, as growing health care costs come to crowd out States' investment in higher education.

If you're more of a visual person like me, maybe you'd like to see some graphs:

The images below illustrate the crowding out effect pretty effectively. Here's a graph of "Dollars of higher education appropriations per $1000 of personal income" since 1978 from Orszag's presentation.
Picture 4.pngAnd here's the the ratio of public salary to private salary for assistant, associate and full professors since 1978.
Picture 5.pngWhat we're seeing in these graphs is pretty clear: state investments in public education have not kept up with private sector salaries or personal income. And, as Orszag notes, you'd be wise to pin the downward slope in these graphs to skyrocketing health care spending.

You can argue over the relationship of education spending to student achievement (DC's exorbitant per-student spending is always ground zero for that discussion) but I think the more important point here is that clearly rising health care costs necessitate trade offs and budget cuts that have an terribly negative impact in policies that have nothing to do with health care. Our inability to control health costs is directly feeding our inability to field, among other things, an effective public education system. If Obama can make this case - that health care spending is more than a health care issue - he might be able to build a reform coalition large enough to finally bring the issue to the forefront on Captol Hill.

Presented by

Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we still save the night sky?

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we still save the night sky?

Video

The Faces of #BlackLivesMatter

Scenes from a recent protest in New York City

Video

Desegregated, Yet Unequal

A short documentary about the legacy of Boston busing

Video

Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life

The Supreme Court justice talks gender equality and marriage.

Video

Social Media: The Video Game

What if the validation of your peers could "level up" your life?

Video

The Pentagon's $1.5 Trillion Mistake

The F-35 fighter jet was supposed to do everything. Instead, it can barely do anything.

More in Business

Just In