Category Archives: Introduction


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.

Definition of Variables

The full dataset contains the following variables:

BLcodeBarro-Lee Country Code
WBcodeThree-letter Country Code
region_codeRegion Classification
countryCountry Name
agefromStarting Age
agetoFinishing Age
luPercentage of No Schooling Attained in Pop.
lpPercentage of Primary Schooling Attained in Pop.
lpcPercentage of Complete Primary Schooling Attained in Pop.
lsPercentage of Secondary Schooling Attained in Pop.
lscPercentage of Complete Secondary Schooling Attained in Pop.
lhPercentage of Tertiary Schooling Attained in Pop.
lhcPercentage of Complete Tertiary Schooling Attained in Pop.
yr_schAverage Years of Schooling Attained
yr_sch_pirAverage Years of Primary Schooling Attained
yr_sch_secAverage Years of Secondary Schooling Attained
yr_sch_terAverage Years of Tertirary Schooling Attained
popPopulation (1000s)
pop15Total Population over 15 (1000s)
pop25Total Population over 25 (1000s)


The Barro-Lee Data set extends our previous estimates from 1950 to 2010, and provide more, improved data disaggregated by sex and and by 5-year age intervals. It provides educational attainment data for 146 countries in 5-year intervals from 1950 to 2010. It also provides information about the distribution of educational attainment of the adult population over age 15 and over age 25 by sex at seven levels of schooling— no formal education, incomplete primary, complete primary, lower secondary, upper secondary, incomplete tertiary, and complete tertiary. Average years of schooling at all levels—primary, secondary, and tertiary—are also measured for each country and for regions in the world.

Aside from updating and expanding our previous estimates (1993, 1996, and 2001), we improve the accuracy of estimation in the current version by using more information and better methodology. To reduce measurement error, the new estimates are constructed using recently available census/survey observations from consistent census data, disaggregated by age group, and new estimates of mortality rate and completion rate by age and by education.