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The Expansion of College Education in the United States: Is There Evidence of Declining Cohort Quality?

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  • Chinhui Juhn
  • Dae Il Kim
  • Francis Vella

Abstract

This article documents the expansion of college education in the United States and examines to what extent the increase in the number of college graduates may have lead to a decline in the average quality of college graduates. Using the 1940--90 Census, we compare across birth year cohorts with varying levels of college completion. We find some weak evidence that college graduate men from highly educated cohorts earn a relatively smaller wage premium even controlling for the relative supply effect. However, these cohort quality effects account for only a small fraction of the recent fluctuation in the college wage premium.(JEL I20, J24, J31) Copyright 2005, Oxford University Press.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Western Economic Association International in its journal Economic Inquiry.

Volume (Year): 43 (2005)
Issue (Month): 2 (April)
Pages: 303-315

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Handle: RePEc:oup:ecinqu:v:43:y:2005:i:2:p:303-315

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  1. Finis Welch, 1979. "Effects of Cohort Size on Earnings: The Baby Boom Babies' Financial Bust," UCLA Economics Working Papers 146, UCLA Department of Economics.
  2. Welch, Finis, 1979. "Effects of Cohort Size on Earnings: The Baby Boom Babies' Financial Bust," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages S65-97, October.
  3. Blackburn, McKinley L & Neumark, David, 1993. "Omitted-Ability Bias and the Increase in the Return to Schooling," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 11(3), pages 521-44, July.
  4. David Card & Thomas Lemieux, 2000. "Can Falling Supply Explain the Rising Return to College for Younger Men? A Cohort-Based Analysis," NBER Working Papers 7655, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Lang, Kevin, 1993. "Ability Bias, Discount Rate Bias and the Return to Education," MPRA Paper 24651, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  6. David Autor & Lawrence Katz & Alan Krueger, 1997. "Computing Inequality: Have Computers Changed the Labor Market?," Working Papers 756, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  7. David Card, 1994. "Earnings, Schooling, and Ability Revisited," NBER Working Papers 4832, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Dan T. Rosenbaum, 2000. "Ability, Educational Ranks, and Labor Market Trends: The Effects of Shifts in the Skill Composition of Educational Groups," JCPR Working Papers 146, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
  9. Murphy, Kevin M & Welch, Finis, 1992. "The Structure of Wages," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(1), pages 285-326, February.
  10. Stephen Cameron & Christopher Taber, 2000. "Borrowing Constraints and the Returns to Schooling," NBER Working Papers 7761, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Murnane, Richard J & Willett, John B & Levy, Frank, 1995. "The Growing Importance of Cognitive Skills in Wage Determination," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 77(2), pages 251-66, May.
  12. Berger, Mark C, 1985. "The Effect of Cohort Size on Earnings Growth: A Reexamination of the Evidence," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 93(3), pages 561-73, June.
  13. repec:fth:prinin:331 is not listed on IDEAS
  14. Robert J. Willis & Sherwin Rosen, 1978. "Education and Self-Selection," NBER Working Papers 0249, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Robert H. Topel, 1997. "Factor Proportions and Relative Wages: The Supply-Side Determinants of Wage Inequality," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(2), pages 55-74, Spring.
  16. Marcus Stanley, 2003. "College Education And The Midcentury Gi Bills," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(2), pages 671-708, May.
  17. Stephen V. Cameron & James J. Heckman, 1998. "Life Cycle Schooling and Dynamic Selection Bias: Models and Evidence for Five Cohorts of American Males," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(2), pages 262-333, April.
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Cited by:
  1. Philip A. Trostel, 2007. "The fiscal impacts of college attainment," New England Public Policy Center Working Paper 07-2, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
  2. Lutz Hendricks & Todd Schoellman, 2013. "Student Abilities During the Expansion of US Education," CESifo Working Paper Series 4537, CESifo Group Munich.
  3. Carneiro, Pedro & Lee, Sokbae, 2010. "Trends in Quality-Adjusted Skill Premia in the United States, 1960-2000," IZA Discussion Papers 5295, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. Tali Regev, 2007. "Imperfect information, self-selection and the market for higher education," Working Paper Series 2007-18, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  5. Pedro Carneiro & Sokbae 'Simon' Lee, 2005. "Ability, sorting and wage inequality," CeMMAP working papers CWP16/05, Centre for Microdata Methods and Practice, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  6. Nicole M. Fortin, 2006. "Higher-Education Policies and the College Wage Premium: Cross-State Evidence from the 1990s," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(4), pages 959-987, September.
  7. Pedro Carneiro & Sokbae 'Simon' Lee, 2009. "Estimating distributions of potential outcomes using local instrumental variables with an application to changes in college enrollment and wage inequality," CeMMAP working papers CWP01/09, Centre for Microdata Methods and Practice, Institute for Fiscal Studies.

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