The neo-classical ‘human capital theory’ continues to be invoked as part of the rationale for educational expansion in the developing world. While the theory provides a route from educational inputs to economic outputs in terms of increased incomes and standards of living, the route is contingent and relies upon a number of key assumptions. This study examines these assumptions alongside student expectations of their educations in the context of Ghana using data collected from a survey conducted at higher education institution and from the Ghana Statistical Service's ongoing living standards surveys. Data indicate that students have high economic expectations but that trends in wages and employment are leading to ‘wage compression’ which may ultimately make expectations difficult to fulfill. The relatively low private costs of education, particularly higher education, may mean, however, that educational investment remains very much a ‘rational’ choice in economic terms. However, the study finds that key assumptions of successful human capital investment went largely unsatisfied in Ghana.
International Journal of Educational Development (2008) 28 (3) 320-339 [doi: 10.1016/j.ijedudev.2007.05.006]