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Economic and Social Returns To Educational Choices


  • Mads Meier Jæger

    (The Danish National Institute of Social Research, Herluf Trolles Gade 11, DK-1052 Copenhagen K, Denmark, mads


Recent sociological rational choice theories argue that educational decisions are made with the objective of maximizing both economic and social returns to education. Economic returns are, for example, earnings, while social returns include the preservation of existing peer groups and social networks. In this article I develop a rational choice model of educational decision making in which both economic and social returns form the total expected utility of education. Furthermore, I propose and test two rational decision rules that utility-maximizing students should follow when choosing education that are empirically distinguishable from alternative and `non-rational' decision rules. When analyzing data on the choice of secondary education from the Danish PISA survey, I find that students' educational choices are consistent with the hypothesis that they attempt to maximize both economic and social returns to education. Furthermore, the findings suggest that economic returns to education are somewhat more important than social returns.

Suggested Citation

  • Mads Meier Jæger, 2007. "Economic and Social Returns To Educational Choices," Rationality and Society, , vol. 19(4), pages 451-483, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:ratsoc:v:19:y:2007:i:4:p:451-483

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