Does prioritizing education yield better learning outcomes? Evidence from Latin America



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What effect does government prioritization of education have on education outcomes? I argue that when governments prioritize education, as measured by levels of relative spending and the average tenure of education ministry leadership, they can increase educational attainment. I test this hypothesis using data on test scores and graduation rates from two samples. In addition to relative spending and ministerial tenure, I also measure priority through absolute levels of spending and the cabinet rank of the education minister. The evidence from this study suggests the following four findings: absolute spending is not a strong predictor of education outcomes; relative spending is a strong predictor of the both test scores and graduation rates; average tenure of the minister of education is a strong predictor of test scores but not completion rates; and the rank of the education minister within the cabinet is a poor predictor of education outcomes.