Returns to higher education in China: What is the role of college quality?
When there is substantial variation in the quality of colleges and universities, estimating returns to higher education based on quantity of education alone can be misleading. This paper examines the relationship between returns to higher education and college quality in China. We find that returns to higher education vary significantly depending on school quality. In addition, we find that the relationship between earnings and school quality is stronger for cohorts of workers that have entered the workforce more recently. This finding may result from the fact that as the transition toward a market system progresses in China, the wage system becomes increasingly responsive to key components of human capital. We also find that the earning gap between graduates from lower-quality colleges and those from vocational/technical schools decreases over time. Our results may help to inform individual decision-making on investment in education, effective expansion of the higher education system, and efficient resource allocation across different levels of the education system.
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