George Psacharopoulos (1937 - )

Psacharopoulos George

Short Biography & Significant Contribution

Over the course of his career, George Psacharopoulos has made a deep impact on the way education is viewed in relation to economics and developing nations. Psacharopoulos was born in 1937 in Athens, Greece. He obtained a B.A. degree in 1960 in his home country before coming to the U.S. for graduate school. He received both his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in economics from the University of Chicago in 1964 and 1968, respectively. Early on, Psacharopoulos took an interest in the economics of education, particularly in the returns of education across various nations. His conception of how investment in education can be approached has helped shape and influence research studies and policy formation, especially as they relate to developing nations. Psacharopoulos' use of human capital theory and his focus on the macro planning of education has been an integral part of his work and scholarship. He views human capital development through education as a means to a more productive society. Psacharopoulos contends that economics is an integral utility in the process of educational planning, particularly because it may guide planners in determining resource allocation in determining the optimal means for efficient and effective school systems. In 2003, the Economics of Education Review dedicated an entire issue in honor of Psacharopoulos and the significance of his academic endeavors. Psacharopoulous is a prolific writer, with over 500 publications, and translated into more than 12 languages (see Social Science Index for a listing of his publications).

Psacharopoulos' findings on the rates of return to education, continues to play an important role in the formation of significant global educational policies. For example: he suggests that that primary education ought to be the main focus of national school systems, since its rate of return was found to be the highest among all levels of education. Another was Psacharopoulos' contention that females should be given equal access to schooling, since the rate of return of educating women is comparable to that of educating men. Some of the goals listed under Education for All, such as providing "free and compulsory primary education for all" and achieving "gender parity and gender equality" in schools, reflect the work done by Psacharopoulos and other scholars in using education as a means of fostering development in various parts of the world. During the years Psacharopoulos spent working at the World Bank, overseeing educational research and policy formation from 1981 to 1998, he influenced the way the Bank approached lending to advance primary education, especially investment in education for girls in developing countries.

In addition to being involved in research and policy formation, Psacharopoulos has taught at higher education institutions such as the London School of Economics and Athens University. He was also elected to serve a four year term in the Greek Parliament as a state MP in 2000. Psacharopoulos held the O'Leary Chair at the University of Illinois' College of Education from 2005 to 2006--a position that focuses on financial management in education, especially in public schools.

As an avid believer that the work of academics should aid in the educational planning process, Psacharopoulos has been an active voice in urging other scholars in comparative education to place more emphasis on practical applications and provide answers to the many educational planning issues facing nations around the world. Psacharopoulos' observations from an economic standpoint about equity and quality issues in schools along with ways secondary and university education need to be approached are among other salient issues about which he has urged comparativists to consider. The numerous influences that Psacharopoulos has had on both academic and policy arenas since the start of his career is reflective of his belief that the use of economics in education challenges educational planners to contemplate "the costs and benefits associated with individual and social action, all of which are not necessarily measured in dollar terms." *

List of Publications (with links to articles) 
Biographical Website 

* Psacharopoulos, G. (1990). From rhetoric to usefulness. Comparative Education Review, 34(3), 401-404.

Educational Background

B.A., Athens, Greece (1960)

M.A., University of Chicago (1964)

Ph.D., University of Chicago (1968)

Professional Background

London School of Economics, faculty (1969 - 1981)

World Bank, educational research and policy formation (1981-1998)

Athens University, visiting professor in Department of Economics (1998-2000)

Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research in Athens, Managing Director (1999-2000)

Greek Parliament, state MP (2000-2004)

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, O'Leary Chair in the College of Education (2005-2006)

Selected Publications

"The value of investment in education: Theory, evidence and policy," Journal of Education Finance. 32 (2) Fall 2006: 113-136.

"The real university cost in a 'free' higher education country," (with G. Papakonstantinou), Economics of Education Review, 24 (1) 2005:103-108

"Linking vocational education and training research, policy and practice: a personal view," Vocational Training - European Journal 36 (3), 2005: 69-73. (Also published in French, Spanish, German and Portuguese).

"Returns to investment in education: A further update," (with H. Patrinos). Education Economics 12 (2), 2004:111-135.

"Economics of education: From theory to practice," Brussels Economic Review (Cahiers Economiques de Bruxelles), 47 (3), 2004: 341-357.

"The social cost of an outdated law: Article 16 of the Greek Constitution," European Journal of Law and Economics, 16 (3), 2003: 123-137.

"Economics of education à la Euro" European Journal of Education, 35 (1) 2000: 81-95.

"Scientific training in Europe Year 2000: Problems and solutions," The IPTS Report, 37, 1999: 4-10.

"Vocational education and training today: Challenges and responses", Journal of Vocational Education and Training, 49, 1998: 385-394

"Child labor versus educational attainment: Some evidence from Latin America," Journal of Population Economics, 10 (4) 1997: 377-386.


Created: 6/4/2008

Updated: 6/4/2008

Contributed By: Christian Kang, Loyola University Chicago