Origins of the knowledge economy

Higher education and Scandinavia’s economic development

While there is much theoretical and empirical literature examining the role of education in long-term growth, less understood is how different types of education — and the specialisation of skills implicit in higher education — shape development.

The research question I consider is:
How did changes in the supply of and demand for different types of higher education contribute to Scandinavia’s economic development from the nineteenth century onwards?

The twin purposes of this project are to:

  • examine the role of higher education in Scandinavia’s industrialisation and long-term economic development from the nineteenth century onwards
  • develop and apply new techniques for the measurement of human capital (education) and the analysis of its effects.

I employ two sets of novel Scandinavian source material: grade lists, which track student performance in high school and university; and graduate biographies, which provide details of students’ background, education and post-study careers.

My dissertation will comprise a collection of four articles which build and apply a new skills-based measure of human capital to examine different aspects of the role of higher education in Scandinavian industrialisation.

Indicative timeframe:
September 2020 – August 2024


  • Kristin Ranestad (primary)
  • Paul Sharp

Work in progress

Lessons from Oslo: Examining social mobility after the establishment of Norway’s first university

  • With Kristin Ranestad and Paul Sharp

Education and industrialisation: Using novel data sources to construct historical estimates of human capital