Valuing the future: should educational benefits be discounted?

Tal Gilead*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The practice of assigning a lesser value to benefits the further they are into the future, or, in economic terms, discounting, has long played a significant role in shaping public policy. Recently, due to the growing influence of economic modes of thinking on the educational realm, the concept of discounting is also starting to have an influence on the way in which the future is dealt with in educational policymaking. While in other fields, such as health and environmental protection, much has been written about discounting and its far-reaching policy implications, little attention has been given to the subject in the educational domain. The purpose of this article is to discuss critically the role that discounting should play in the educational realm. The article provides a normative stance on the issue by examining the various justifications for discounting and assessing them in light of education’s special characteristics. It concludes that in education we should not rely on a single discount rate, and that certain educational benefits should either not be discounted at all or discounted using a very low rate.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)404-420
Number of pages17
JournalOxford Review of Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - 4 May 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Taylor & Francis.


  • discounting
  • economics
  • philosophy
  • policy
  • policymaking
  • time
  • value


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