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Unobserved Ability and the Return to Schooling

  • Christian Belzil

    ()

    (Concordia University, W., Montreal, Canada, CIRANO, CIREQ, and IZA)

  • Jörgen Hansen

    ()

    (Concordia University, W., Montreal, Canada, CEPR, CIRANO, CIREQ, and IZA)

We estimate a structural dynamic programming model of schooling decisions with unobserved heterogeneity in school ability and market ability on a sample taken from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY). Both the instantaneous utility of attending school and the wage regression function are estimated flexibly. The null hypothesis that the local returns to schooling are constant is strongly rejected in favor of a convex wage regression function composed of 8 spline segments. The local returns are very low until grade 11 (1% per year or less), increase to 3.7% in grade 12 and exceed 10% only from grade 14 to grade 16. The average return increases smoothly from 0.4% (grade 7) to 4.6% (grade 16). The convexity of the log wage regression function implies that those who obtain more schooling also experience higher average returns. We strongly reject the null hypothesis that unobserved market ability is uncorrelated with realized schooling attainments, which underlies many previous studies that have used OLS to estimate the return to schooling. The correlation between realized schooling and market ability is found to be positive and is consistent with the existence of a positive “Ability Bias”.

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Article provided by Econometric Society in its journal Econometrica.

Volume (Year): 70 (2002)
Issue (Month): 5 (September)
Pages: 2075-2091

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Handle: RePEc:ecm:emetrp:v:70:y:2002:i:5:p:2075-2091
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  1. Whitney K. Newey & James L. Powell & Francis Vella, 1999. "Nonparametric Estimation of Triangular Simultaneous Equations Models," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 67(3), pages 565-604, May.
  2. Charles F. Manski & John V. Pepper, 1998. "Monotone Instrumental Variables with an Application to the Returns to Schooling," NBER Technical Working Papers 0224, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Belzil, Christian & Hansen, Jörgen, 2002. "Unobserved Ability and the Return to Schooling," IZA Discussion Papers 508, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. Eckstein, Zvi & Wolpin, Kenneth, 1998. "Youth Employment and Academic Performance in High School," CEPR Discussion Papers 1861, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. Narayana R. Kocherlakota, 1996. "The Equity Premium: It's Still a Puzzle," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 34(1), pages 42-71, March.
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  7. Rust, John, 1987. "Optimal Replacement of GMC Bus Engines: An Empirical Model of Harold Zurcher," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(5), pages 999-1033, September.
  8. Belzil, Christian & Hansen, Jörgen, 2002. "A Structure Analysis of the Correlated Random Coefficient Wage Regression Model," CEPR Discussion Papers 3601, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  9. Belzil, Christian & Hansen, Jörgen, 2001. "Heterogeneous Returns to Human Capital and Dynamic Self-Selection," IZA Discussion Papers 272, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  10. Richard Blundell & James Powell, 2001. "Endogeneity in nonparametric and semiparametric regression models," CeMMAP working papers CWP09/01, Centre for Microdata Methods and Practice, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  11. James Heckman & Edward Vytlacil, 1998. "Instrumental Variables Methods for the Correlated Random Coefficient Model: Estimating the Average Rate of Return to Schooling When the Return is Correlated with Schooling," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 33(4), pages 974-987.
  12. Christian Belzil & Jörgen Hansen, 2001. "Estimating the Intergenerational Education Correlation from a Dynamic Programming Model," CIRANO Working Papers 2001s-20, CIRANO.
  13. Kenneth I. Wolpin & Mark R. Rosenzweig, 2000. "Natural "Natural Experiments" in Economics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 38(4), pages 827-874, December.
  14. Lang, Kevin, 1993. "Ability Bias, Discount Rate Bias and the Return to Education," MPRA Paper 24651, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  15. Douglas Staiger & James H. Stock, 1997. "Instrumental Variables Regression with Weak Instruments," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(3), pages 557-586, May.
  16. Audrey Light & Wayne Strayer, 2000. "Determinants of College Completion: School Quality or Student Ability?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 35(2), pages 299-332.
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