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Constrained after college: Student loans and early-career occupational choices

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  • Rothstein, Jesse
  • Rouse, Cecilia Elena

Abstract

In the early 2000s, a highly selective university introduced a "no-loans" policy under which the loan component of financial aid awards was replaced with grants. We use this natural experiment to identify the causal effect of student debt on employment outcomes. In the standard life-cycle model, young people make optimal educational investment decisions if they are able to finance these investments by borrowing against future earnings; the presence of debt has only income effects on investment decisions. We find that debt causes graduates to choose substantially higher-salary jobs and reduces the probability that students choose low-paid "public interest" jobs. We also find some evidence that debt affects students' academic decisions during college. Our estimates suggest that recent college graduates are not life-cycle agents. Two potential explanations are that young workers are credit constrained or that they are averse to holding debt. We find suggestive evidence that debt reduces students' donations to the institution in the years after they graduate and increases the likelihood that a graduate will default on a pledge made during her senior year; we argue this result is more likely consistent with credit constraints than with debt aversion.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Public Economics.

Volume (Year): 95 (2011)
Issue (Month): 1-2 (February)
Pages: 149-163

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Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:95:y:2011:i:1-2:p:149-163

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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505578

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Keywords: Student debt Credit constraints Career choice Financial aid;

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References

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  1. Minicozzi, Alexandra, 2005. "The short term effect of educational debt on job decisions," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 24(4), pages 417-430, August.
  2. Todd R. Stinebrickner & Ralph Stinebrickner, 2007. "The Effect of Credit Constraints on the College Drop-Out Decision A Direct Approach Using a New Panel Study," NBER Working Papers 13340, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Charles F. Manski, 1987. "Academic Ability, Earnings, and the Decision to Become a Teacher: Evidence from the National Longitudinal Study of the High School Class of 1972," NBER Chapters, in: Public Sector Payrolls, pages 291-316 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Philippe Belley & Lance Lochner, 2007. "The Changing Role of Family Income and Ability in Determining Educational Achievement," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 1(1), pages 37-89.
  5. Pedro Carneiro & James J. Heckman, 2002. "The Evidence on Credit Constraints in Post--secondary Schooling," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(482), pages 705-734, October.
  6. Saul Pleeter & John T. Warner, 2001. "The Personal Discount Rate: Evidence from Military Downsizing Programs," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(1), pages 33-53, March.
  7. Helena Skyt Nielsen & Torben Sørensen & Christopher Taber, 2010. "Estimating the Effect of Student Aid on College Enrollment: Evidence from a Government Grant Policy Reform," NBER Chapters, in: Income Taxation, Trans-Atlantic Public Economics Seminar (TAPES), pages 185-215 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Dolton, P. J. & Makepeace, G. H., 1993. "Female labour force participation and the choice of occupation: The supply of teachers," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 37(7), pages 1393-1411, October.
  9. David B. Gross & Nicholas S. Souleles, 2001. "Do Liquidity Constraints and Interest Rates Matter for Consumer Behavior? Evidence from Credit Card Data," NBER Working Papers 8314, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Thomas Crossley & Hamish Low, 2011. "Borrowing constraints, the cost of precautionary saving and unemployment insurance," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer, vol. 18(6), pages 658-687, December.
  11. Erica Field, 2009. "Educational Debt Burden and Career Choice: Evidence from a Financial Aid Experiment at NYU Law School," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(1), pages 1-21, January.
  12. David S. Johnson & Jonathan A. Parker & Nicholas S. Souleles, 2004. "Household Expenditure and the Income Tax Rebates of 2001," Working Papers 136, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Discussion Papers in Economics..
  13. Jesse Rothstein & Cecilia Elena Rouse, 2007. "Constrained After College: Student Loans and Early Career Occupational Choices," NBER Working Papers 13117, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Martin Feldstein, 1992. "College Scholarship Rules and Private Saving," NBER Working Papers 4032, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Nicholas S. Souleles, 1999. "The Response of Household Consumption to Income Tax Refunds," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(4), pages 947-958, September.
  16. David M. Linsenmeier & Harvey S. Rosen & Cecilia Elena Rouse, 2002. "Financial Aid Packages and College Enrollment Decisions: An Econometric Case Study," NBER Working Papers 9228, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Burdman, Pamela, 2005. "The Student Debt Dilemma: Debt Aversion as a Barrier to College Access," University of California at Berkeley, Center for Studies in Higher Education qt6sp9787j, Center for Studies in Higher Education, UC Berkeley.
  18. Mark A. Moore & Anthony E. Boardman & Aidan R. Vining & David L. Weimer & David H. Greenberg, 2004. "“Just give me a number!” Practical values for the social discount rate," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 23(4), pages 789-812.
  19. Jappelli, Tullio, 1990. "Who Is Credit Constrained in the U.S. Economy?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(1), pages 219-34, February.
  20. Stephen V. Cameron & Christopher Taber, 2004. "Estimation of Educational Borrowing Constraints Using Returns to Schooling," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(1), pages 132-182, February.
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