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Explaining the Evolution of Educational Attainment in the United States

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  • Rui Castro
  • Daniele Coen-Pirani

Abstract

We study the evolution of educational attainment of the 1932-1972 cohorts using a human capital investment model with heterogeneous learning ability. Inter-cohort variation in schooling is driven by changes in skill prices, tuition, and education quality over time, and average learning ability across cohorts. Under static expectations the model accounts for the main empirical patterns. Rising skill prices for college explain the rapid increase in college graduation until the 1948 cohort. The decline in average learning ability, calibrated to match the evolution of test scores, explains half of the stagnation in college graduation between the 1948 and 1972 cohorts.

Suggested Citation

  • Rui Castro & Daniele Coen-Pirani, 2016. "Explaining the Evolution of Educational Attainment in the United States," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 8(3), pages 77-112, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aejmac:v:8:y:2016:i:3:p:77-112
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/mac.20130139
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Marcus Stanley, 2003. "College Education and the Midcentury GI Bills," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(2), pages 671-708.
    2. Joshua D. Angrist & Stacey H. Chen, 2011. "Schooling and the Vietnam-Era GI Bill: Evidence from the Draft Lottery," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(2), pages 96-118, April.
    3. Thomas Lemieux & David Card, 2001. "Going to College to Avoid the Draft: The Unintended Legacy of the Vietnam War," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(2), pages 97-102, May.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Lutz Hendricks & Christopher Herrington & Todd Schoellman, 2018. "College Access and Attendance Patterns: A Long-Run View," Opportunity and Inclusive Growth Institute Working Papers 10, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
    2. Binelli, Chiara & Menezes-Filho, Naercio, 2019. "Why Brazil fell behind in college education?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 72(C), pages 80-106.
    3. Kevin Donovan & Christopher Herrington, 2019. "Factors Affecting College Attainment and Student Ability in the U.S. since 1900," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 31, pages 224-244, January.
    4. Delalibera, Bruno Ricardo & Ferreira, Pedro Cavalcanti, 2019. "Early childhood education and economic growth," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 98(C), pages 82-104.
    5. Christian Belzil & Jörgen Hansen, 2020. "Reconciling Changes in Wage Inequality With Changes in College Selectivity Using a Behavioral Model," CIRANO Working Papers 2020s-36, CIRANO.
    6. Christian Belzil & Jörgen Hansen, 2020. "The evolution of the US family income–schooling relationship and educational selectivity," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 35(7), pages 841-859, November.
    7. Hennig, Jan-Luca, 2021. "Labor Market Polarization and Intergenerational Mobility: Theory and Evidence," VfS Annual Conference 2021 (Virtual Conference): Climate Economics 242353, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    8. Stenberg, Anders, 2022. "A Note on Evaluating Formal Education for Adults," Working Paper Series 1/2022, Stockholm University, Swedish Institute for Social Research, revised 14 Jun 2022.
    9. Kevin Donovan & Christopher Herrington, 2019. "Factors Affecting College Attainment and Student Ability in the U.S. since 1900," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 31, pages 224-244, January.
    10. Siu, Henry E, 2018. "Comment on “Short-run pain, long-run gain? Recessions and technological transformation”," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 97(C), pages 45-47.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I23 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Higher Education; Research Institutions
    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality
    • I26 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Returns to Education
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • N32 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-

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