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College Quality and Wages in the United States

  • Dan Black
  • Jeffrey Smith
  • Kermit Daniel

We estimate the effects of the quality of the college a student attends on their later earnings using data from a cohort of US college students from the late 1970s and early 1980s. We rely on a linear selection on observables identification strategy, which is justified in our context by a very rich set of conditioning variables. We find economically important earnings effects of college quality for men and women, as well as effects on educational attainment, spousal earnings and other demographic variables. These effects remain roughly constant over time and result primarily from effects on wages, rather than from effects on hours or labor force participation. We find that, over the lower part of the range of college quality, increases in college quality (which entail higher expenditures per student) pass a simple social cost-benefit test. Copyright Verein für Socialpolitik and Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 2005.

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Article provided by Verein für Socialpolitik in its journal German Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 6 (2005)
Issue (Month): 3 (08)
Pages: 415-443

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Handle: RePEc:bla:germec:v:6:y:2005:i:3:p:415-443
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  1. Dan A. Black & Jeffrey Smith, 2003. "How Robust is the Evidence on the Effects of College Quality? Evidence From Matching," University of Western Ontario, CIBC Centre for Human Capital and Productivity Working Papers 20033, University of Western Ontario, CIBC Centre for Human Capital and Productivity.
  2. Hansen, Karsten T. & Heckman, James J. & Mullen, Kathleen, 2003. "The Effect of Schooling and Ability on Achievement Test Scores," IZA Discussion Papers 826, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Dennis Epple & Richard Romano & Holger Sieg, . "Admission, Tuition, and Financial Aid Policies in the Market for Higher Education," GSIA Working Papers 2003-04, Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business.
  4. Elizabeth Cascio & Ethan Lewis, 2005. "Schooling and the AFQT: evidence from school entry laws," Working Papers 05-1, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  5. Kermit Daniel & Dan Black & Jeffery Smith, 1996. "College Quality and the Wages of Young Men," HEW 9604001, EconWPA.
  6. 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.
  7. Marianne Simonsen & Lars Skipper, 2004. "Identifying Direct and Indirect Effects. Estimating th Costs of Motherhood Using Matching Estimators," Discussion Papers 03-023, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
  8. Kermit Daniel & Dan Black & Jeffery Smith, 1996. "College Characteristics and the Wages of Young Women," HEW 9604002, EconWPA.
  9. Dan A. Black & Jeffrey A. Smith, 2006. "Estimating the Returns to College Quality with Multiple Proxies for Quality," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(3), pages 701-728, July.
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