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Estimating the Return to College in Britain Using Regression and Propensity Score Matching


  • Wen Fan


College graduates tend to earn more than non-graduates but it is difficult to ascertain how much of this empirical association between wages and college degree is due to the causal effect of a college degree and how much is due to unobserved factors that influence both wages and education (e.g. ability). In this paper, I use the 1970 British Cohort Study to examine the college premium for people who have a similar ability level by using a restricted sample of people who are all college eligible but some never attend. Compared to using the full sample, restricting the sample to college-eligible reduces the return to college significantly using both regression and propensity score matching (PSM) estimates. The finding suggests the importance of comparing individuals of similar ability levels when estimating the return to college.
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Suggested Citation

  • Wen Fan, 2012. "Estimating the Return to College in Britain Using Regression and Propensity Score Matching," LABOUR, CEIS, vol. 26(1), pages 31-45, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:labour:v:26:y:2012:i:1:p:31-45
    DOI: j.1467-9914.2011.00533.x

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Hansen, Karsten T. & Heckman, James J. & Mullen, K.J.Kathleen J., 2004. "The effect of schooling and ability on achievement test scores," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 121(1-2), pages 39-98.
    2. Arnaud Chevalier & Colm Harmon & Ian Walker & Yu Zhu, 2004. "Does Education Raise Productivity, or Just Reflect it?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 114(499), pages 499-517, November.
    3. Vincenzo Caponi & Miana Plesca, 2009. "Post-secondary education in Canada: can ability bias explain the earnings gap between college and university graduates?," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 42(3), pages 1100-1131, August.
    4. Alberto Abadie & Guido W. Imbens, 2008. "On the Failure of the Bootstrap for Matching Estimators," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 76(6), pages 1537-1557, November.
    5. Devereux, Paul J. & Fan, Wen, 2011. "Earnings returns to the British education expansion," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(6), pages 1153-1166.
    6. Nigel C. O’Leary & Peter J. Sloane, 2005. "The Return to a University Education in Great Britain," National Institute Economic Review, National Institute of Economic and Social Research, vol. 193(1), pages 75-89, July.
    7. Murnane, Richard J & Willett, John B & Levy, Frank, 1995. "The Growing Importance of Cognitive Skills in Wage Determination," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 77(2), pages 251-266, May.
    8. Lorraine Dearden, 1998. "Ability, families, education and earnings in Britain," IFS Working Papers W98/14, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials


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