One of the first assumptions in economics is that people behave rationally. The principle of rationality means we take all available information and make decisions that aim to maximize our best interest. I have always realized that is a pretty bold assumption because interacting with anybody for at least 5 minutes will disprove it rather quickly. If we were truly rational, would our decisions change? One area I think that would be greatly affected is our personal educational pursuits and our view on education in general.
We have to make decisions everyday due to the scarce resources that exist in our lives – the most important of which is time. The opportunity cost of setting that time aside for education means we are missing out on other potential activities like working. As a third year grad student, I sometimes question if the pursuit of higher education is worth it. Looking at my student debt waiting to be paid off and the mounting piles of schoolwork that come with ever-increasing amounts of stress, I have my doubts. But then I remember that the benefits of my education go beyond the grades I get, the degrees I earn, and even the increase in potential earnings in my future career.
People with higher levels of education tend to have better problem-solving skills and tools to make well-informed life decisions. A study from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that education is a predictor of mortality in the U.S. and a predictor of health in many other countries. Additional studies found that education affects a nation’s economic growth, unemployment rates, and overall cognitive functioning of pupils.
While some research links higher levels of education with more happiness, there are also reports that find no link between the two. In my life, education is a source of happiness because it is the means through which I can accomplish my goals. This sense of fulfillment and satisfaction spills over into other areas in my life. Education is how I found subject areas that I connect with on a profound level, which have changed the way I view the world. In addition to the economic benefits it provides, on a spiritual level, it is our responsibility to increase in intelligence to reach our highest potential in this life. I believe the most important outcome of education is becoming – becoming who we want to be, who we strive to be, and who we feel we are meant to be.
Now back to the assumption that people are rational and seek to maximize our best interest. If this is true, let us allocate our time towards an investment with a very real return. As parents, invest in the time it takes to help your children and instill in them the importance of education. As teachers, invest in truly helping your students. As policy makers, invest financially in public education. And as individuals, invest in yourselves and seek an education. Don’t fall victim to the idea that it isn’t worth it and prioritize less worthwhile activities like this: