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International Comparisons

Education Expenditures by Country

Last Updated: May 2021
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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

Select a subgroup characteristic from drop-down menu below to view relevant text and figures.

Expenditures per FTE student at the elementary/secondary level varied across OECD countries in 2017, ranging from $3,000 in Mexico to $21,900 in Luxembourg. The United States spent $14,100 per FTE student at the elementary/secondary level, which was 37 percent higher than the average of OECD countries2 reporting data ($10,300). [Other]
Expenditures per FTE student at the postsecondary level also varied across OECD countries3 in 2017, ranging from $3,300 in Greece to $53,800 in Luxembourg. The United States spent $34,500 per FTE student at the postsecondary level, which was 102 percent higher than the average of OECD countries reporting data ($17,100). [Other]
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.

In 2017, the average of OECD countries’ expenditures per FTE student at the elementary/secondary level was $10,300, compared with $9,400 in 2010.4 In 22 of the 27 OECD countries with data available for both years, including the United States, expenditures per FTE student at the elementary/secondary level were higher in 2017 than in 2010, after adjusting for inflation. The percentage increases ranged from a low of less than one-half of 1 percent in Norway to a high of 50 percent in Israel. Five countries (Mexico, Ireland, Australia, Denmark, and Slovenia) had expenditures per FTE student at the elementary/secondary level that were lower in 2017 than in 2010. In the United States, expenditures per FTE student were 2 percent higher in 2017 ($14,100) than in 2010 ($13,800). Nineteen of the 27 countries with data available for both 2010 and 2017 had higher percentage increases in expenditures than the United States. The exceptions were Norway (less than one-half of 1 percent) and Spain (1 percent), which had a lower percentage increase than the United States between 2010 and 2017, and the five countries that saw percentage decreases in expenditures between those years. [Time series ]
In 2017, the United States had the fourth highest expenditures per FTE student at the elementary/secondary level, after Luxembourg ($21,900), Austria ($15,600), and Norway ($15,600). Of these three countries, only Norway had data available in 2010. The gap in expenditures between Norway and the United States was smaller in 2017 ($1,500) than in 2010 ($1,700), which was driven by an increase in spending in the United States. [Time series ]
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.

In 2017, the average of OECD countries’ expenditures per FTE student at the postsecondary level was $17,100, compared with $14,800 in 2010. Of the 25 OECD countries with data available in both years, expenditures per FTE student at the postsecondary level were higher in 2017 than in 2010 in 20 countries, including the United States. In the United States, expenditures per FTE student at the postsecondary level were 15 percent higher in 2017 ($34,500) than in 2010 ($30,100). Of the 20 countries with expenditures per FTE student that were higher in 2017 than in 2010, the percentage increase in expenditures per FTE student at the postsecondary level ranged from a low of 4 percent in Japan and Lithuania to a high of 87 percent in Estonia. The United States had the highest expenditures per FTE student in both 2010 and 2017 among the OECD countries reporting data in both years. Five countries (Mexico, Denmark, Finland, Spain, and Germany) had expenditures per FTE student at the postsecondary level that were lower in 2017 than in 2010. [Time series ]
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.

A country’s wealth (defined as GDP per capita) is positively associated with its education expenditures per FTE student at the elementary/secondary and postsecondary levels. In 2017, of the 16 countries with a GDP per capita greater than the average of OECD countries ($10,300) that also reported data for elementary/secondary education expenditures per FTE student, 15 countries had elementary/secondary education expenditures per FTE student that were higher than the average of OECD countries. These 15 countries were the United Kingdom, Finland, Canada, Belgium, Australia, Sweden, Germany, Denmark, Austria, the Netherlands, Iceland, the United States, Norway, Switzerland, and Luxembourg. The exception was Ireland, which had lower elementary/secondary expenditures per FTE student ($9,300) than the average of OECD countries. [Socioeconomic status (SES) ]
Of the 21 countries with a GDP per capita lower than the average of OECD countries that also reported data for elementary/secondary education expenditures per FTE student, 19 countries also had elementary/secondary education expenditures per FTE student that were lower than the average of OECD countries in 2017. These 19 countries were Colombia, Mexico, Chile, Greece, Latvia, Poland, Hungary, the Slovak Republic, Portugal, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovenia, Turkey, Israel, Spain, the Czech Republic, Japan, Italy, and New Zealand. The exceptions were France and the Republic of Korea, which had expenditures per FTE student at the elementary/secondary level that were higher than the average for OECD countries. [Socioeconomic status (SES) ]
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.

At the postsecondary level in 2017, of the 15 countries with a GDP per capita that was higher than the average of OECD countries that also reported data for postsecondary education expenditures per FTE student, 14 had postsecondary education expenditures per FTE student that were higher than the average of OECD countries. The exception was Ireland, which had lower expenditures per FTE student at the postsecondary level ($17,000) than the average of OECD countries ($17,100). Of the 21 countries with a lower GDP per capita than the average of OECD countries that also reported data for postsecondary education expenditures per FTE student, 19 countries had education expenditures per FTE student that were lower than the average of OECD countries at the postsecondary level. The two exceptions were Japan and France; both countries reported higher postsecondary expenditures per FTE student ($19,100 and $17,500, respectively) than the average of OECD countries. [Socioeconomic status (SES) ]
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.

Among the 35 OECD countries reporting data in 2017, the average total expenditures on education institutions constituted 4.9 percent of GDP. Norway reported the highest total expenditures on education institutions as a percentage of GDP (6.6 percent), followed by New Zealand, Chile, and the United Kingdom (all 6.3 percent), Israel (6.2 percent), and the United States (6.1 percent). Luxembourg reported the lowest total expenditures on education institutions as a percentage of GDP (3.2 percent), followed by Lithuania and Ireland (both 3.4 percent) and the Czech Republic and Slovak Republic (both 3.6 percent). [Socioeconomic status (SES) ]
At the elementary/secondary level, the United States spent 3.6 percent of GDP on total expenditures on education institutions in 2017, higher than the average of OECD countries (3.5 percent). Nine countries spent 4.0 percent or more of GDP on elementary/secondary institutions. Israel and Norway reported the highest percentage of GDP spent on elementary/secondary institutions (both 4.7 percent). Lithuania reported the lowest percentage of GDP spent on elementary/secondary institutions (2.4 percent). [Socioeconomic status (SES) ]
At the postsecondary level, the United States spent 2.6 percent of GDP on total expenditures on education institutions in 2017, higher than the average of OECD countries (1.4 percent) and higher than the percentages of all other OECD countries reporting data, except for Chile (2.7 percent). In addition to the United States and Chile, other countries that spent 2.0 percent or more of GDP on postsecondary institutions were Canada (2.3 percent) and Australia, the United Kingdom, and Norway (all 2.0 percent). [Socioeconomic status (SES) ]

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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Suggested Citation

National Center for Education Statistics. (2022). Education Expenditures by Country. Condition of Education. U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences. Retrieved [date], from https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator/cmd.