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 comprises six papers: four empirical analyses of higher educational attainment and its effects, and two papers (marked in blue boxes below) that document the source material I use.

Indicative timeframe:
September 2020 – end 2024


  • Kristin Ranestad (primary)
  • Paul Sharp
  • Jonas Ljungberg


Nicholas Ford, Kristin Ranestad and Paul Sharp (2022): ‘Leaving Their Mark: Using Danish Student Grade Lists to Construct a More Detailed Measure of Historical Human Capital‘, Italian Review of Economic History