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Understanding the Income Gradient in College Attendance in Mexico: The Role of Heterogeneity in Expected Returns

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  • Katja Maria Kaufmann

Abstract

Differences in college enrollment rates between poor and rich students are a prevalent phenomenon, but particularly striking in Latin America. The literature suggests explanations such as differences in "college preparedness" on the one hand, in that poor students lack skills that enable them to benefit from college, and "credit constraints" on the other hand. One explanation that has been neglected in this analysis consists of differences in information sets between the poor and the rich - for example about career opportunities-translating into different perceptions of individual returns to college. Data on people's subjective expectations of returns allow to take this factor into account and to directly address the following identification problem: conditional on their information sets poor people might expect low returns and thus decide not to attend. Or they might face high (unobserved) costs that prevent them from attending de-spite high expected returns. Conventional approaches rely on strong assumptions about people's information sets and about how they form expectations to address this identification problem. Data on people's subjective expectations of returns as well as on their schooling decisions allow me to directly estimate and compare cost distributions of poor and rich individuals. I find that poor individuals require significantly higher expected returns to be induced to attend college, implying that they face higher costs than individuals with wealthy parents. I then test predictions of a model of college attendance choice in the presence of credit constraints, using parental income and wealth as a proxy for the household's (unobserved) interest rate. I find that poor individuals with high expected returns are particularly responsive to changes in direct costs, which is consistent with credit constraints playing an important role. Evaluating potential welfare implications by applying the Local Instrumental Variables approach of Heckman and Vytlacil (2005) to my model, I find that a sizeable fraction of poor individuals would change their decision in response to a reduction in direct costs. Individuals at the margin have expected returns that are as high or higher than the individuals already attending college, suggesting that government policies such as fellowship programs could lead to large welfare gains.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University in its series Working Papers with number 362.

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Date of creation: 2010
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Handle: RePEc:igi:igierp:362

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Cited by:
  1. Filippin, Antonio & Paccagnella, Marco, 2011. "Family Background, Self-Confidence and Economic Outcomes," IZA Discussion Papers 6117, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Binelli, Chiara, 2014. "How the wage-education profile got more convex: evidence from Mexico," Discussion Paper Series In Economics And Econometrics 1404, Economics Division, School of Social Sciences, University of Southampton.
  3. V. Joseph Hotz & Peter Arcidiacono & Songman Kang, 2010. "Modeling College Major Choices Using Elicited Measures of Expectations and Counterfactuals," Working Papers 10-30, Duke University, Department of Economics.
  4. Ralph Stinebrickner & Todd Stinebrickner, 2013. "A Major in Science? Initial Beliefs and Final Outcomes for College Major and Dropout," University of Western Ontario, CIBC Centre for Human Capital and Productivity Working Papers 20134, University of Western Ontario, CIBC Centre for Human Capital and Productivity.
  5. Orazio Attanasio & Katja Kaufmann, 2009. "Educational Choices, Subjective Expectations, and Credit Constraints," NBER Working Papers 15087, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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