Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Eshragh Motahar




STEM, STEM education, international education, human capital, innovation, productivity, growth, macroeconomic returns, returns to education, post-secondary education


This thesis aims to build on existing studies of human capital and returns to education with a focus on innovation-fueling, STEM-based education, to answer: How does STEM education affect macroeconomic growth across different countries? A review of literature reveals that many studies account for human capital in growth equations, measured as average years of education. However, educational attainment as a measure of human capital leaves out the additional impact of research, technological know-how and innovation on growth. This thesis seeks to bridge some of the overlap between education and innovation as it affects productivity by focusing on education in STEM—fields that produce workers able to meet the growing science- and technology-based innovation that lies at the core of modern economic growth. The empirical framework for this study is derived from the traditional neoclassical growth model and is augmented to include an enhanced form of human capital: STEM educational attainment. The factor constraining data availability is reports of STEM first university degrees from the National Science Foundation (2014). One data set covers 87 countries for 2010 or most recent period. A second set covers 15 countries over the 2000-2010 period. Drawing on both cross-sectional and panel data sets, as well as on data for existing physical capital, human capital and level of development, estimates are obtained using regression analysis. The results of this study indicate significant, positive effects of STEM education on productivity across specifications and call for policy that focuses on improving and promoting STEM programs at the post-secondary level.