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2016 4 Feb. Update

In the version 2.0, there was a mistake in the estimates for China. The data set of version 2.0 is changed accordingly and available as version 2.1 at the data page.

2014 30 Aug. Update

In the version 2.0, there was a mistake in the estimates for Finland in 2005 and 2010. The data set of version 2.0 is changed accordingly and available at the data page. We thank Aleksi Kalenius for pointing out this mistake.

2014 30 June Update

The new version (2.0) is now available.

This version of the Barro-Lee data set has made several important changes to the earlier version (1.3) reported in Barro and Lee (2013). Hanol Lee, a Ph.D. Student in Economics at Korea University, has provided excellent research assistance.

The changes affected various countries in the sample. The major changes are as follows:

  • We have updated estimates of educational attainment by using the recently available UNESCO census data. They include 89 census observations from the 86 countries, mostly for the years 2005 and 2010. The census data on educational attainment of the population by age and by gender are kindly provided by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics.
  • We have also collected the new census/survey observations from the UN demographic yearbook and national publications from statistics bureaus.
  • We have added 126 census/survey observations in total and used them as benchmark figures for the estimation of educational attainment. The following Table provides detailed information on these additional observations.
  • We have corrected minor errors in the UNESCO censuses, including Korea in 1990 and Mexico in 2000.
  • To maintain consistency with the observations from the other sources, we have reformulated the completion ratio of tertiary-level attainment for the census observations sourced from the UN Demographic yearbooks. The tertiary completion ratio is defined as the percentage of the number of people who have attained schooling at ISCED 5A or 6 in the number of people who have attained schooling at ISCED 5A, 5B or 6. The people who have ever enrolled in the 4th year of colleges or universities belong to the complete category.
  • We have used the updated data on enrollment ratios for total and female school-aged population at each education level for 2005 and 2010.
  • In this version, we have checked more carefully the consistency between the estimates of the distribution of educational attainment among total, female and male population by age group. We report the data for male population by age group together with the ones for total and female population.
  • We are currently constructing estimates of historical educational attainment from 1870 to 1945 in five-year intervals. For the estimation, in this version (2.0), we have used newly compiled data on school duration data and school enrollment ratios for the years before 1950, and adopted a modified backward extrapolation technique. Accordingly, there are some changes in the estimates for the older-age population after 1950 (that is, those derived from the estimates for school-age population before 1950). We will report historical data on school duration and school enrollment ratios, as well as a new data set of historical educational attainment, with new estimation procedures, at the next opportunity.
  • The version (1.3) released on April 2013 is also available.

2013 09 April Update

The new version (1.3) is now available!

This version (1.3) of the Barro-Lee data set has made several changes to the earlier version (1.2). The changes affected various countries in the sample, but they are not significant in magnitude for most cases.

The changes are:

  • We have evaluated more carefully the accuracy of the forward-flow and backward- flow estimates of educational attainment for the total and female population in the age group, 15-19 and 20-24. We have made corrections to those estimates that showed unrealistic fluctuations over time, which are mainly due to measurement errors in school enrollment rates. The new estimates display a smoother trend in each category of educational attainment and average years of schooling among the younger cohorts than the previous estimates.
  • We have checked the accuracy of the estimates of educational attainment among male population by age group, which are constructed from the estimates among total and female population by age group. We have made corrections to the estimates that showed unrealistic fluctuations over time.
  • We have changed the backward extrapolation method. We continue to apply the backward extrapolation procedure to fill in missing data for each age group by using the attainment of the older age group from the succeeding period. But it turns out that the backward-flow extrapolated estimates for the age group below 65 years old are not often accurate if we use the attainment of the age group over 65 years old from the succeeding period as benchmark data when they are not from census. So, we decide not to use the backward extrapolation method for this case. Instead, we have estimated the attainment of the age group, 60-64 by using the group-average age-specific profile for the same age group constructed using the available data of the countries in advanced countries or developing countries, and then used the estimates as benchmark data for the backward extrapolation for the age group in the preceding period.
  • We have used recently available UNESCO data of secondary and tertiary enrollment rates for 2010 to estimate missing attainment data. This has affected secondary and tertiary educational attainment among the population in the age group, 15-19 and 20-24.

2011 04 Sept. Updat

The new version (1.2) is now available!

This version (1.2) improves on the earlier version (1.1) by incorporating recently available census observations and correcting inaccurate estimates of completion ratios.

  • The new census data are now available through UNESCO and national statistical offices.
  • The census data for the following countries are available through UNESCO: Canada, Fiji, Ghana, Guyana, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Maldives, Namibia, Papua New Guinea, Tonga and United Arab Emirates; while the census data for the following countries are available through their respective statistical offices: Macro SAR, Cote d’Ivoire, Guatemala, Italy, Russian Federation, Slovenia, Sri Lanka and United States.
  • Some countries have extremely low or high county specific primary/secondary completion ratios. As these imply unusual trends in the completion ratios, we replaced them by the regional specific primary/secondary completion ratios. These countries include: Afghanistan, Algeria, Austria, Botswana, Democratic Republic of the Congo (only F), Hungary, India, Malta, Myanmar, New Zealand, Portugal (only MF), Sierre Leone, United Kingdom and Zambia.
  • A more detailed list of these revisions is available here.


Many observers have emphasized the crucial importance of human capital, particularly as attained through education, to economic progress (Lucas, 1988, Barro, 1991 and Mankiw, Romer and Weil, 1992). An abundance of well-educated people goes along with a high level of labor productivity. It also implies larger numbers of more skilled workers and greater ability to absorb advanced technology from developed countries. The level and distribution of educational attainment also have impact on social outcomes, such as child mortality, fertility, education of children, and income distribution.

There have been a number of attempts to measure educational attainment across countries to quantify the relationship between it and economic and social outcome variables. Earlier empirical studies used school enrollment ratios or literacy rates. But although widely available, these data do not adequately measure the aggregate stock of human capital available contemporaneously as an input to production.

Earlier versions of the Barro-Lee Data Set (1993, 1996, and 2001) filled this data gap by constructing measures of educational attainment for a broad group of countries.

The earlier versions employed perpetual inventory method using census/survey observations on the educational attainment of the adult population group over age 15 or over age 25 as benchmark stocks and new school entrants as flows that added to the stocks with an appropriate time lag. The flow estimates were estimated using information on school-enrollment ratios and population structure over time.

As new data becomes available, the data set is updated and expanded. Barro-Lee (1993) provides educational attainment estimates for 129 countries for 1960–1985. This new Data Set provides complete estimates for 146 countries for the period 1950-2010.


We fill in most of missing observations by forward and backward extrapolation of the census/survey observations on attainment. The estimation procedure extrapolates the census/survey observations on attainment by 5-year age groups at five-year intervals fill in missing observations with an appropriate time lag.

We assume that an individual’s educational attainment remains unchanged from age 25 to 64 and that mortality is uniform across all individuals, regardless of educational attainment. Hence, for age groups between 25 and 64, we fill the missing attainment data using the attainment of the younger age group from the previous period (forward) as benchmark or the attainment of the older age group from the succeeding period (backward).

Since direct backward or forward extrapolation is not applicable for the two youngest age groups (age 15-19 and 20-24), we use attainment and enrollment data to estimate missing attainment data. We assume that the change in enrollment leads to a proportional change in attainment over time with time lag. Hence, for these age groups, we use estimates for the same age group from the previous (or in the next) period as benchmark and adjust this benchmark figure by the change in enrollment over time or the enrollment adjustment factor.

For older age groups (age 65 and above), we distinguish between a less-educated population (uneducated and people who have reached the primary level) and a more-educated population (reached at least secondary schooling). We estimated the survival rates for the old population by education levels using available censuses by age group and found that more educated people have lower mortality rates. We apply our survival ratio estimates to adjust the backward or forward estimate for mortality rate differences between less-educated and more-educated individuals.

After estimating school attainment at four broad levels of schooling: no school, some primary, some secondary, and some higher, we break down the three levels of schooling into incomplete and complete education by using estimates of completion ratios.

For a more detailed discussion about the estimation methodology, see Barro-Lee (2013).

List of Countries

In alphabetical order

AfghanistanGreecePapua New Guinea
BangladeshIndonesiaRepublic of Korea
BarbadosIran (Islamic Republic of)Republic of Moldova
BelizeIrelandRussian Federation
BoliviaItalySaudi Arabia
Brunei DarussalamJordanSierra Leone
CameroonKyrgyzstanSouth Africa
CanadaLao People’s Democratic RepublicSpain
Central African RepublicLatviaSri Lanka
China, Hong Kong SARLibyan Arab JamahiriyaSweden
China, Macao SARLithuaniaSwitzerland
ColombiaLuxembourgSyrian Arab Republic
Costa RicaMalaysiaTajikistan
Côte d´IvoireMaldivesThailand
CyprusMauritaniaTrinidad and Tobago
Czech RepublicMauritiusTunisia
Democratic Republic of the CongoMexicoTurkey
Dominican Rep.MongoliaUkraine
EcuadorMozambiqueUnited Arab Emirates
EgyptMyanmarUnited Kingdom
El SalvadorNamibiaUnited Republic of Tanzania
FinlandNew ZealandVenezuela
FranceNicaraguaViet Nam

By region and group

North Africa/Middle East (18)Latin America (25)South Asia (7)
Iran (Islamic Republic of)BrazilNepal
IsraelColombiaSri Lanka
JordanCosta Rica
KuwaitCubaEurope and Central Asia (20)
Libyan Arab JamahiriyaDominican Rep.Albania
MoroccoEl SalvadorBulgaria
Saudi ArabiaGuyanaCzech Republic
Syrian Arab RepublicHaitiEstonia
United Arab EmiratesJamaicaKazakhstan
Sub-saharan Africa (33)PanamaLithuania
BotswanaPeruRepublic of Moldova
BurundiTrinidad and TobagoRomania
CameroonUruguayRussian Federation
Central African RepublicVenezuelaSerbia
Côte d´IvoireEast Asia and the Pacific (19)Slovenia
Democratic Republic of the CongoBrunei DarussalamTajikistan
GhanaChina, Hong Kong Special Administrative RegionAdvanced Economies (24)
KenyaChina, Macao Special Administrative RegionAustralia
MalawiLao People’s Democratic RepublicCanada
MozambiquePapua New GuineaGermany
NigerRepublic of KoreaIceland
Sierra LeoneTongaLuxembourg
South AfricaViet NamNetherlands
SudanNew Zealand
United Republic of TanzaniaSweden
United Kingdom

Data Source

The benchmark figures on school attainment (621 census/survey observations) used are collected from census/survey information, as compiled by UNESCO, Eurostat, and other sources. The census/survey figures report the distribution of educational attainment in the population over age 15 by sex and by 5-year age group, for most cases, in seven categories: no formal education, incomplete primary, complete primary, lower secondary, upper secondary, incomplete and complete tertiary.

For total population aged 15 and over, 191 countries have at least 1 observation, and 112 countries have 3 or more observations. Most of our original data are from full censuses. These data points are used as benchmark figures on educational attainment. For the estimation of missing observations, we use enrolment rates and population by age group from the UIS database and UN population database, respectively. We have constructed complete estimates for the 146 countries.

Appendix Notes provide information on data sources for individual countries.