Schooling is key to acquiring the skills and credentials needed to take advantage of opportunities, from obtaining consumer goods and services at reasonable prices to participating in the larger culture and finding gainful employment. Increasingly, success in our information-based society depends on our ability to manage the avalanche of information confronting us in every domain of life, particularly in our jobs. Admittedly, not all occupational categories require increasing levels of education. In fact, some forms of technology are being used by employers to automate processes in ways that reduce the need to invest in human capital. However, there is little doubt that higher-paying occupations are demanding more and more education. Technological changes in the world of work confer increasing advantages on workers with higher educational attainment and disadvantages on those with lower education levels. The most direct measure of the advantages of education involves income differences: more educated people earn higher wages.
Researchers disagree somewhat on why this is true, some believing that the knowledge and skills obtained in school enhance the ability to perform valuable work, while others think that diplomas and degrees signal to employers that the graduate has demonstrated an ability to meet the challenges posed by teachers and tests and that this ability to “navigate in the system”—more than the knowledge obtained—is valued by employers. Whatever the explanation, there is no doubt that having more education increases a worker's chances for earnings. Educational attainment, however, creates benefits beyond the level of individuals. In a knowledge economy, productivity growth within metropolitan