The effect of quantity and quality of education on innovation

Jorge Fernández-Rodríguez Labordeta, Gregorio Giménez


Purpose: This research attempts to determine, empirically and for a large sample of countries, which kind of educational variables can better explain technological innovation processes, approximated by the number of patents per capita. To do this, we use a model that explains the innovative capacity of the countries employing six educational variables: two quantitative variables –average (total and university) years of schooling- and four qualitative variables -based on outcomes of different international tests of knowledge-.

Design/methodology: The analysis is carried out for a sample that includes more than 60 countries, using cross-section techniques for the decade 2000-2010.

Findings: From the econometric results we conclude that technological innovation, proxied by the number of patents per capita, is explained better by the quality of education than by the quantity of education. Innovative activity is strongly linked to success in terms of educational skills, the type of skills acquired and educational excellency. Furthermore, the interaction between educational quality and quantity is a key factor. When we introduce the cross effects of both variables, the proposed model yields to a greater explanatory power.

Originality/value: The traditional perspective on human capital literature uses indicators based on the quantity of education, usually average years of schooling. This study incorporates indicators based on skills, measured by the results of international tests of knowledge. The introduction of the dual perspective, quantitative and qualitative, to measure human capital and to determine what kind of indicators explains better innovation, is an outstanding novelty.


Human capital, knowledge tests, innovation, patents


Licencia de Creative Commons 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Intangible Capital, 2004-2023

Online ISSN: 1697-9818; Print ISSN: 2014-3214; DL: B-33375-2004

Publisher: OmniaScience