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Annual Reports and Information Staff (Annual Reports)
International Comparisons

Education Expenditures by Country

(Last Updated: May 2021)

In 2017, the United States spent $14,100 per full-time-equivalent (FTE) student on elementary and secondary education, which was 37 percent higher than the average of Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) member countries of $10,300 (in constant 2019 U.S. dollars). At the postsecondary level, the United States spent $34,500 per FTE student, which was 102 percent higher than the average of OECD countries ($17,100).

This indicator uses material from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to compare countries’ expenditures on education using two measures: expenditures on public and private education institutions per full-time-equivalent (FTE) student and total government and private expenditures on education institutions as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP). The OECD is an organization of 37 countries that collects and publishes an array of data on its member countries. Education expenditures are from public revenue sources (governments) and private revenue sources, and they include current and capital expenditures. Private sources include payments from households for school-based expenses such as tuition, transportation fees, book rentals, and food services, as well as public funding via subsidies to households, private fees for education services, and other private spending that goes through the educational institution. The total government and private expenditures on education institutions as a percentage of GDP measure allows for a comparison of countries’ expenditures relative to their ability to finance education. Purchasing power parity (PPP) indexes are used to convert other currencies into U.S. dollars. Monetary amounts are in constant 2019 dollars based on national Consumer Price Indexes.1

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Figure 1. Expenditures and percentage change in expenditures per full-time-equivalent (FTE) student for elementary and secondary education, by Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) country: 2010 and 2017
Figure 1. Expenditures and percentage change in expenditures per full-time-equivalent (FTE) student for elementary and secondary education, by Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) country: 2010 and 2017

—Not available.

†Not applicable.

# Rounds to zero.

1 Includes public institutions only.

2 Education expenditures include preprimary education (for children ages 3 and older).

3 Education expenditures exclude postsecondary nondegree programs.

4 Refers to the mean of the data values for all reporting Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, to which each country reporting data contributes equally. The average includes all current OECD countries for which a given year’s data are available, even if they were not members of OECD in that year.

NOTE: Includes both government and private expenditures. Expenditures for International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) level 4 (postsecondary nondegree programs) are included in elementary and secondary education unless otherwise noted. Data adjusted to U.S. dollars using the purchasing power parity (PPP) index. Constant dollars based on national Consumer Price Indexes, available on the OECD database cited in the SOURCE note below. Some data have been revised from previously published figures. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.

SOURCE: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Online Education Database, retrieved December 10, 2020, from https://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 605.10.

Figure 2. Expenditures and percentage change in expenditures per full-time-equivalent (FTE) student for postsecondary education, by Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) country: 2010 and 2017
Figure 2. Expenditures and percentage change in expenditures per full-time-equivalent (FTE) student for postsecondary education, by Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) country: 2010 and 2017

—Not available.

†Not applicable.

1 Postsecondary nondegree programs included in both secondary and postsecondary education in one or both data years (2010 and 2017).

2 Refers to the mean of the data values for all reporting Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, to which each country reporting data contributes equally. The average includes all current OECD countries for which a given year’s data are available, even if they were not members of OECD in that year.

NOTE: Switzerland is excluded from this figure because data on expenditures were unavailable for 2010 and 2017. Includes both government and private expenditures. Data adjusted to U.S. dollars using the purchasing power parity (PPP) index. Constant dollars based on national Consumer Price Indexes, available on the OECD database cited in the SOURCE note below. Some data have been revised from previously published figures. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.

SOURCE: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Online Education Database, retrieved December 10, 2020, from https://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 605.10.

Figure 3. Expenditures per full-time-equivalent (FTE) student for elementary and secondary education in selected Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, by gross domestic product (GDP) per capita: 2017
Figure 3. Expenditures per full-time-equivalent (FTE) student for elementary and secondary education in selected Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, by gross domestic product (GDP) per capita: 2017

– Linear relationship between spending and country wealth for 37 OECD countries reporting data (elementary/secondary): r2 = .74; slope = 0.17; intercept = 2,189.

NOTE: Includes both government and private expenditures. Expenditures for International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) level 4 (postsecondary nondegree programs) are included in elementary and secondary education unless otherwise noted. Data on expenditures for Canada include preprimary education and exclude postsecondary nondegree programs. Data adjusted to U.S. dollars using the purchasing power parity (PPP) index. Constant dollars based on national Consumer Price Indexes, available on the OECD database cited in the SOURCE note below. “OECD average” refers to the mean of the data values for all reporting Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, to which each country reporting data contributes equally. The average includes all current OECD countries for which a given year’s data are available, even if they were not members of OECD in that year.

SOURCE: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Online Education Database, retrieved December 10, 2020, from https://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 605.10.

Figure 4. Expenditures per full-time-equivalent (FTE) student for postsecondary education in selected Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, by gross domestic product (GDP) per capita: 2017
Figure 4. Expenditures per full-time-equivalent (FTE) student for postsecondary education in selected Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, by gross domestic product (GDP) per capita: 2017

– Linear relationship between spending and country wealth for 36 OECD countries reporting data (postsecondary): r2 = .74; slope = 0.44; intercept = -2,939.

NOTE: Switzerland is excluded from this figure because data on expenditures were not available in 2017. Includes both government and private expenditures. Data on expenditures for Japan include International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) level 4 (postsecondary nondegree programs). Data adjusted to U.S. dollars using the purchasing power parity (PPP) index. Constant dollars based on national Consumer Price Indexes, available on the OECD database cited in the SOURCE note below. “OECD average” refers to the mean of the data values for all reporting Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, to which each country reporting data contributes equally. The average includes all current OECD countries for which a given year’s data are available, even if they were not members of OECD in that year.

SOURCE: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Online Education Database, retrieved December 10, 2020, from https://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 605.10.

Figure 5. Government and private expenditures on education institutions as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) for Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries with the two highest and lowest percentages of expenditures for all institutions, by level of education: 2017
Figure 5. Government and private expenditures on education institutions as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) for Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries with the two highest and lowest percentages of expenditures for all institutions, by level of education: 2017

1 Refers to the mean of the data values for all reporting Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, to which each country reporting data contributes equally. The average includes all current OECD countries for which a given year’s data are available, even if they were not members of OECD in that year.

2 Includes expenditures that could not be reported by level of education.

NOTE: Expenditures for International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) level 4 (postsecondary nondegree programs) are included in elementary and secondary education. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.

SOURCE: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Online Education Database, retrieved September 16, 2020, from https://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 605.20.


1 National Consumer Price Indexes are available at the OECD Online Education Database (https://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx). The data used for this indicator can be found in the “Consumer price indices (CPIs)—Complete database” table under “Prices and Purchasing Power Parities,” “Consumer and Producer Price Indices,” “Consumer price indices (CPIs)—Complete database.”

2 Throughout this indicator, the “average of OECD countries” refers to the simple average of the individual country values for all reporting OECD countries, to which each country reporting data contributes equally. The average includes all current OECD countries for which a given year’s data are available, even if they were not members of the OECD in that year. Countries excluded from analyses in this indicator may be included in the OECD average.

3 Switzerland is excluded from analyses of expenditures per FTE student at the postsecondary level because 2017 expenditure data were not available for this level.

4 The 2010 average of OECD countries is based on 27 countries with available data, and the 2017 average of OECD countries is based on 37 countries. Users should exercise caution when comparing averages because of the impact of the inclusion or exclusion of countries from the calculations due to available data. The 2010 average of OECD countries for the 27 countries with data available for both 2010 and 2017 is $10,100.

Supplemental Information

Table 605.10 (Digest 2020): Gross domestic product per capita and expenditures on education institutions per full-time-equivalent (FTE) student, by level of education and country: Selected years, 2005 through 2017;
Table 605.20 (Digest 2020): Government and private expenditures on education institutions as a percentage of gross domestic product, by level of education and country: Selected years, 2005 through 2017
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