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Selection Bias, Comparative Advantage and Heterogeneous Returns to Education

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  • James J. Heckman
  • Xuesong Li

Abstract

This paper uses newly available Chinese micro data to estimate the return to college education for late 20th century China when allowing for heterogeneous returns among individuals selecting into schooling based on these differences. We use recently developed semiparametric methods to identify the parameters of interest. We demonstrate that heterogeneity among people in returns to schooling is substantial. People sort into schooling on the basis of the principle of comparative advantage, which we document to be an empirically important phenomenon in modern Chinese labor markets. Standard least squares or instrumental variable methods do not properly account for this sorting. Using new methods that do, we estimate the effect on earnings of sending a randomly selected person to college is a 43% increase in lifetime earnings (nearly 11% annually) in 2000 for young people in urban areas of six provinces of China. The effect of college on those who go is 13%. Our evidence, and simple least squares evidence, suggests that after 20-plus years of economic reform with market orientation, the return to education has increased substantially in China, compared to the returns measured in the 1980's and the early 1990's.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 9877.

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Date of creation: Aug 2003
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9877

Note: ED LS CH
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  1. Heckman, James & Navarro-Lozano, Salvador, 2003. "Using matching, instrumental variables and control functions to estimate economic choice models," Working Paper Series 2003:4, IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy.
  2. James J. Heckman & Edward J. Vytlacil, 2000. "Local Instrumental Variables," NBER Technical Working Papers 0252, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. 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.
  4. Griliches, Zvi, 1977. "Estimating the Returns to Schooling: Some Econometric Problems," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 45(1), pages 1-22, January.
  5. Heckman, James J. & Lochner, Lance & Todd, Petra E., 2003. "Fifty Years of Mincer Earnings Regressions," IZA Discussion Papers 775, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  6. Bjorklund, Anders & Moffitt, Robert, 1987. "The Estimation of Wage Gains and Welfare Gains in Self-selection," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 69(1), pages 42-49, February.
  7. James Heckman, 1997. "Instrumental Variables: A Study of Implicit Behavioral Assumptions Used in Making Program Evaluations," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 32(3), pages 441-462.
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Cited by:
  1. Wagstaff, Adam, 2005. "Decomposing changes in income inequality into vertical and horizontal redistribution and reranking, with applications to China and Vietnam," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3559, The World Bank.

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