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Revisiting The Bell Curve Debate Regarding the Effects of Cognitive Ability on Wages

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  • Liang Zhao
  • Joyce P. Jacobsen

    ()
    (Department of Economics, Wesleyan University)

Abstract

In The Bell Curve, Herrnstein and Murray (1994) claim, based on evidence from cross-sectional regressions, that differences in wages in the U.S. labor market are predominantly explained by general intelligence. Cawley, Heckman, and Vytlacil (1999), using evidence from random effects panel regressions, reject this claim, in part because returns to general intelligence vary by racial and gender subgroups in their results. In this article, we examine the regression methods used by both sides of the debate and conclude that neither is the appropriate method to analyze the NLSY data that both use. We introduce the Hausman-Taylor estimator to obtain consistent estimated coefficients on the time-invariant general intelligence-related variables and also extend the analysis up through 2002. While many additional socio-economic factors are important explanatory variables in determining the wage rate, the effect of general intelligence on wages is larger in the Hausman-Taylor specification for the 1979-1994 panel than in either the cross-sectional or random effects models, though it becomes statistically insignificant for the 1994-2002 panel. The Hausman-Taylor analysis also indicates no significantly different returns to intelligence by race or gender group.

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File URL: http://repec.wesleyan.edu/pdf/jjacobsen/2006026_jacobsen.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Wesleyan University, Department of Economics in its series Wesleyan Economics Working Papers with number 2006-026.

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Length: 31 pages
Date of creation: Nov 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wes:weswpa:2006-026

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Keywords: wages; cognitive ability; education;

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  1. Amemiya, Takeshi & MaCurdy, Thomas E, 1986. "Instrumental-Variable Estimation of an Error-Components Model," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 54(4), pages 869-80, July.
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  3. Baltagi, Badi H & Khanti-Akom, Sophon, 1990. "On Efficient Estimation with Panel Data: An Empirical Comparison of Instrumental Variables Estimators," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 5(4), pages 401-06, Oct.-Dec..
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  7. Baltagi, Badi H. & Bresson, Georges & Pirotte, Alain, 2003. "Fixed effects, random effects or Hausman-Taylor?: A pretest estimator," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 79(3), pages 361-369, June.
  8. Cawley, John & Heckman, James & Vytlacil, Edward, 2001. "Three observations on wages and measured cognitive ability," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(4), pages 419-442, September.
  9. Heckman, James J, 1995. "Lessons from the Bell Curve," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(5), pages 1091-1120, October.
  10. Orley Ashenfelter & Cecilia Rouse, 1998. "Schooling, Intelligence, and Income in America: Cracks in the Bell Curve," Working Papers 786, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  11. (*), Nigel Rice & Paul Contoyannis, 2001. "The impact of health on wages: Evidence from the British Household Panel Survey," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 26(4), pages 599-622.
  12. Breusch, Trevor S & Mizon, Grayham E & Schmidt, Peter, 1989. "Efficient Estimation Using Panel Data," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(3), pages 695-700, May.
  13. Cornwell, Christopher & Rupert, Peter, 1988. "Efficient Estimation with Panel Data: An Empirical Comparison of Instrumental Variables Estimators," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 3(2), pages 149-55, April.
  14. Cornelis Gardebroek & Alfons Oude Lansink, 2003. "Estimating Farm Productivity Differentials using Panel Data: The Hausman-Taylor Approach," Journal of Agricultural Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 54(3), pages 397-415.
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