Professor Eric A. Hanushek

Paul and Jean Hanna Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution of Stanford University


Yidan Prize for Education Research




Education economics, Education policy

Focus by region

Africa, Asia, Europe, North America

Strengthening the bridge between economics and education

Professor Eric A. Hanushek is the Paul and Jean Hanna Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. He is a globally recognized leader in the economic analysis of education issues, and his research has influenced education policy in both developed and developing countries.

Eric’s widely-cited research spans key areas of policy including the economic value of teacher quality, the finance of schools, and the role of education in economic growth. He pioneered the ‘value-added’ approach in measuring teacher effectiveness by students’ learning gains, driving education policy on teacher recruitment and performance evaluation globally.

His book The Knowledge Capital of Nations: Education and the Economics of Growth identifies close links between countries’ long-term rates of economic growth and the skill levels of their populations. He shows that it’s how much students learn—and not how many years they spend in school—that boosts economies, reframing world development goals to focus on the quality of education and learning outcomes.

For decades, Eric has worked with governments to use scientific research to inform effective education policies, bringing the focus on how money is spent rather than the amount spent. He is now working to build and support a network of young, local researchers in developing countries, beginning with sub-Saharan Africa, to gather high-quality data and translate it into plans policymakers can use.

He has authored or edited 24 books along with over 250 articles. He is a Distinguished Graduate of the United States Air Force Academy and completed his PhD in economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


"Like no one else, Eric has been able to link the fields of economics and education. From designing better and fairer systems for evaluating teacher performance to linking better learning outcomes to long-run economic and social progress, he has made an amazing range of education policy areas amenable to rigorous economic analysis."

Mr Andreas Schleicher

Head, Judging Panel, Yidan Prize for Education Research

My heartfelt congratulations to Professor Erik Hanushek for the 2021 Yidan Prize for Educational Research. The vision of Dr Charles Chen Yidan is to create a better world through education, and the mission of the Yidan prize is to change the world by acknowledging the changemakers. I don’t know anyone who’s contributed more to making education count, and to move the frontiers of education through research than Eric Hanushek.

He has that special sense for the policy questions of our times and he has invested his life in ensuring that research evidence makes a real difference to policy and practice on the ground.

Eric, a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institute of Stanford University, has been the architect of the field of the economics of education, and the many connections you can now see between the fields of economics and education are to a large degree the result of his research but also of his personal impact.

Every day, countless practitioners work very hard to improve the quality of learning. At the same time, policymakers need to make tough spending choices between education and the many other priorities placed on them.

Well, Eric Hanushek has been able to connect both worlds and to link improvements in the quality of education to improvements in the long-run economic and social progress. So he has given researchers the tools to reimagine the teachers, the spaces, the time and the technology to leverage better learning rather than just doing more of the same. At the same time, he has given policymakers reasons to prioritise investing in the long-run well-being of societies over just facilitating consumption today, and also how to think about, how to manage, and how to finance their education systems to improve learning outcomes.

He is showing policymakers in advanced economies that spending more provides no guarantee for better outcomes, but at the same time he gives leaders in the developing world hope that they can advance economically if they make the right policy choices in education. The message is that the world is and need not be divided between rich and well-educated and poor and badly educated nations.

His evidence and insights that it’s the quality, not the quantity of education that counts has transformed both education research and policy and it’s also framed the sustainable development goal 4 on education around the quality of learning outcomes, rather than just the number of years children spend in school, which had been the narrative of the millennium development goals before that.

But that’s just one piece of his work. In fact, Eric has shown us that rigorous economic analysis can be applied to an amazing range of education policy areas, from class size to school accountability, to the lifetime payoffs from vocational versus general education, to the importance of evaluating teacher effectiveness. In fact, his pathbreaking work on teacher value-added and the importance of teacher quality has led to a whole class of new research methods for how we evaluate individual teacher performance always with an eye on student learning gains. And again, that wasn’t research in the ivory tower but it has inspired countless countries around the world to develop better and fairer mechanisms for rewarding teacher performance and fostering meritocracy.

So Eric’s work changed the types of data that are being used, the empirical approaches to analysis, but also the questions that policymakers and researchers ask around the world.

I guess the best measure of the relevance and quality of research is always whether it’s transformative, rigorous and replicable enough to make a genuine contribution to the cumulative evidence base, and then whether it has a real impact on policy. Eric’s research production over the past decades is unmatched on both dimensions. His work has consistently created paths of scientific inquiry where results can be tested and verified and where knowledge becomes cumulative. And no other researcher on the economics of education has a citation record as large as Eric.

What is most amazing is that Eric never rests on his laurels, he keeps pushing the frontiers. Today, while some are looking these days for artificial intelligence to replace teachers, and others are looking to protect teachers from artificial intelligence, Eric is joining Stanford’s new Human-Centered AI Initiative to produce cutting-edge research on how artificial intelligence can transform education and super-empower teachers.

But there is something that perhaps fewer people know about Eric, and that is his incredible generosity in spirit, his deep sense of public service and his commitment to the next generation of researchers. He has this magic grace, this amazing talent to give young staff extraordinary challenges and they always meet them with joy. However busy, he is always ready to listen, always ready to advise his students, always ready to respond to that extra email, and he always does all it with humour and a human heart.

He is tireless in devoting time and energy to funding and launching new institutions that attract highly-trained young economists and that can scale up and then sustain his research impact and his network. His global research laboratory at the University of Munich that focuses on how institutional and policy differences in education systems affect their performance has become a magnet for talented young researchers from all over the world.

Last but not least, he is deeply committed to closing the gap between the rich and poor parts of the world through transforming education. And when he saw how the shortage of locally-based researchers has become such a constraint to the design, adoption and implementation of effective policy in Africa, he committed once again to use his expertise, his networks, and his influence to build and strengthen research capacity in Sub-Saharan Africa. His Research Fellows program is going to boost the careers of talented young African economists working on education in the region by connecting them with leading researchers around the world.

That’s just another initiative that reflects Eric’s lifelong commitment to two ideas: the design of effective policies needs high-quality, rigorous research; and researchers really need to engage with policymakers to create a better world through education.