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Can education compensate for low ability? Evidence from British data

Author

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  • Kevin Denny
  • Vincent O'sullivan

Abstract

This article investigates whether the returns to education vary with the level of cognitive ability. Unlike much of the literature, this article finds that the return to schooling is lower for those with higher cognitive ability indicating that education can act as a substitute for observed ability. Using quantile regressions we also find that, again unlike most of the literature, returns are higher at lower quintiles of the conditional earnings distribution. This suggests that education is also a substitute for unobserved ability. The policy implications are that increasing education in general and particularly for those with lower ability should reduce income inequality.

Suggested Citation

  • Kevin Denny & Vincent O'sullivan, 2007. "Can education compensate for low ability? Evidence from British data," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 14(9), pages 657-660.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:apeclt:v:14:y:2007:i:9:p:657-660
    DOI: 10.1080/13504850500461639
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Griliches, Zvi & Mason, William M, 1972. "Education, Income, and Ability," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 80(3), pages 74-103, Part II, .
    2. Carneiro, Pedro & Heckman, James J., 2003. "Human Capital Policy," IZA Discussion Papers 821, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Blackburn, McKinley L & Neumark, David, 1993. "Omitted-Ability Bias and the Increase in the Return to Schooling," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 11(3), pages 521-544, July.
    4. Melissa Osborne & Herbert Gintis & Samuel Bowles, 2001. "The Determinants of Earnings: A Behavioral Approach," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 39(4), pages 1137-1176, December.
    5. Tobias, J.L., 2000. "Are Return to Schooling Concentrated Among the Most Able? A Semiparametric Analysis of the Ability-Earnings Relationship," Papers 00-01-12, California Irvine - School of Social Sciences.
    6. Dearden, Lorraine, 1999. "The effects of families and ability on men's education and earnings in Britain1," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(4), pages 551-567, November.
    7. John Cawley & James Heckman & Edward Vytlacil, 1998. "Understanding the Role of Cognitive Ability in Accounting for the Recent Rise in the Economic Return to Education," NBER Working Papers 6388, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Bartelsman, Eric & Dobbelaere, Sabien & Peters, Bettina, 2013. "Allocation of Human Capital and Innovation at the Frontier: Firm-Level Evidence on Germany and the Netherlands," IZA Discussion Papers 7540, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. Brunello, Giorgio & Fort, Margherita & Weber, Guglielmo, 2007. "“For One More Year with You”: Changes in Compulsory Schooling, Education and the Distribution of Wages in Europe," IZA Discussion Papers 3102, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Gert G. Wagner & Joachim R. Frick & Jürgen Schupp, 2007. "The German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP) – Scope, Evolution and Enhancements," Schmollers Jahrbuch : Journal of Applied Social Science Studies / Zeitschrift für Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaften, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin, vol. 127(1), pages 139-169.
    4. Sarah Voitchovsky & Bertrand Maitre & Brian Nolan, 2012. "Wage Inequality in Ireland’s “Celtic Tiger” Boom," The Economic and Social Review, Economic and Social Studies, vol. 43(1), pages 99-133.
    5. Harry Anthony Patrinos & Chris Sakellariou, 2006. "Economic volatility and returns to education in Venezuela: 1992-2002," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 38(17), pages 1991-2005.
    6. Vikesh Amin, 2009. "Sibling Sex Composition and Educational Outcomes: A Review of Theory and Evidence for the UK," LABOUR, CEIS, vol. 23(1), pages 67-96, March.
    7. Giovagnoli, Paula Ines & Fiszbein, Ariel & Patrinos, Harry Anthony, 2005. "Estimating the returns to education in Argentina : 1992-2002," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3715, The World Bank.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials

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