Back to school: An application of human capital theory for mature workers
There is a vast literature on the decision to enroll in higher education, but it focuses almost entirely on traditional students: 18 year olds graduating from high school. Yet less than half of students at degree-granting institutions are in the traditional 18–22 age range; nearly 40% are at least 25. This paper examines the enrollment behavior of persons 25 or older. We use data from a large-scale 1998 Department of Labor (DOL) policy demonstration in Greater Baltimore. By studying the behavior of older people we can examine factors such as age, earnings and marital status that vary little among the much-studied traditional students. Our results conform to the (rarely tested) predictions of human capital theory that age and opportunity costs are impediments to enrollment. We also find that where you live has a substantial impact on whether you return to school.
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