Is this why Denmark has free college education?

Is this why Denmark has free college education?

TL;DR  Summary


It appears Denmark has free college tuition, in part, and possibly a large part, because of little difference in pay between those with a Bachelor’s degree and those with a secondary education. Consequently, in Denmark’s equality culture, there may be little incentive to go to college unless the government provides free education and pays students to attend universities.

Furthermore, Denmark has mandatory military service requirements for most healthy young adult males who are required to participate. Those who do not meet health standards may have alternative optional service opportunities in either the military or government service. Service lasts from 4 to 12 months. Young women are exempt from the mandatory service but may volunteer. Some have noted that in some ways, free education may be a form of compensation for service. About 99% of those who serve do so voluntarily.



  • The economic value of college degree is low.  In Denmark, a college degree adds little value to one’s income [just 11% per 2015 OECD report, Table A6.1a]; in the U.S. a college degree adds an average of 86% versus a high school diploma. As of 2019, the U.S. Federal Reserve says it is typically about 80% more income.
  • In Denmark’s equality economy, there is small financial incentive to attend college, hence, Denmark has to pay students to attend college. 
  • “In the U.S., earnings for tertiary graduates are 86% higher on average than those for people with only secondary education, and in Hungary they are more than double. At the other end of the scale, the difference is smallest in Denmark, where graduates earn on average 25% more than non-graduates [per OECD-much older data], and Spain, where they earn 29% more” [or just 11% per 2015 OECD report]
  • In the United States, the single largest factor affecting your income is your education. According to the United States Census

    According to a new U.S. Census Bureau study, education levels had more effect on earnings over a 40-year span in the workforce than any other demographic factor, such as gender, race and Hispanic origin.

    The Census says that in the U.S. education has a five-times larger impact on earnings than any other demographic factor. Obviously, this is not the case in Denmark, which necessarily has to pay students to attend college.


  • Several EU countries have experienced negative native population growth rates, including Denmark. (See here and here and here and here (Table 3.2 age 16-19)
  • Their youth populations are shrinking (Table 3.2 see Danish row for age 16-19)
  • Their immigration policies specifically seek young, educated adults (and like many countries, intentionally discriminate against older adult immigrants).
  • They lag behind other western nations in percent of adults with a college degree.


In spite of free tuition and paying students to attend college, Denmark lags behind the U.S.

  • 27% of adults have a college degree in Denmark (as of 2010)
  • 32% of adults in the U.S. have a college degree (as of 2010)

BUT see additional notes below – newer data shows both with larger percentages.


Text for Search Indexing

Why is the Denmark ranked the happiest country in the world by the United Nations?
$20 minimum wage
33 hour work week
Free University
Free Child Care
Free Health Care

Why is Denmark the happiest country in the world?
$20 minimum wage

33-hour work week

Free university

Free childcare

Free healthcare

Share if America should follow their lead

Occupy Democrats

Denmark v. USA
$21/hr. minimum wage   $7.25/hr. minimum wage
Free healthcare, childcare, college and job training – Healthcare, childcare and college are a luxury, can bankrupt you or saddle you with debt
Paid sick and parental leave – No paid sick/parental leave
Only 6.1% of children live in poverty – 23.1% of children are poor, highest rate in rich world
Ranked #1 happiest country
Ranked #1 country for business
Ranked #1 most unequal rich country
Share if Americans can learn from Denmark!
Occupy Democrats

Additional Notes on Degree Completion

Use caution when examining country degree completion rates. Most countries use shorter college terms than the U.S., partly to inflate their ranking on charts like this. Because of differences in how a college degree and how the population is defined, different surveys produce different percentages and rankings. Even when the surveys are done by the same organization! Percentage measures of all adults age 25-64 are also biased by the population age distribution because far more young are now attending college than did the older population when they were young. A country with an older population will appear to have lower college attainment while a country with a younger population will appear to have a higher college attainment, even if both have the same percentage of young people graduating from college.
A newer OECD chart says Denmark has 36% tertiary degree completion but that a Bachelor’s degree adds just 11% to the salary versus a secondary school graduate (A6.1a shown as 111%).
Another OECD report Table A1.a says Denmark has a 31% Bachelor/Masters/Doctoral completion in the age group 25-64 and the U.S. has 34%.
Calculated Risk Blog created a new chart with the latest data through 2019, for those age 25 and later. The U.S. is now at about 41% of adults possessing a Bachelor’s degree or higher.

Here’s a 40+% value for the US – this higher number includes 2-year and vocational training programs, in addition to traditional 3 or 4 year Bachelor’s degrees:

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