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Cohort effects and the returns to education in West Germany


  • Bernhard Boockmann
  • Viktor Steiner


Using a Mincer-type wage function, we estimate cohort effects in the returns to education for West German workers born between 1925 and 1974. The main problem to be tackled in the specification is to separately identify cohort, experience, and possibly also age and year effects in the returns. For women, we find a large and robust decline in schooling premia: In the private sector, the returns to a further year of post-compulsory education fell from ten per cent for the 1945-49 cohort to about six per cent for those born in the early 1970s. Cohort effects in men's returns to education are less obvious, but we do find evidence that they, too, have declined. We conclude by identifying possible reasons for the decline.

Suggested Citation

  • Bernhard Boockmann & Viktor Steiner, 2006. "Cohort effects and the returns to education in West Germany," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 38(10), pages 1135-1152.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:applec:v:38:y:2006:i:10:p:1135-1152
    DOI: 10.1080/00036840500439168

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. David Card & Thomas Lemieux, 2001. "Can Falling Supply Explain the Rising Return to College for Younger Men? A Cohort-Based Analysis," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(2), pages 705-746.
    2. Stapleton, David C & Young, Douglas J, 1988. "Educational Attainment and Cohort Size," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 6(3), pages 330-361, July.
    3. Zimmermann, Klaus F, 1991. "Ageing and the Labor Market: Age Structure, Cohort Size and Unemployment," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 4(3), pages 177-200, August.
    4. Lauer, Charlotte & Steiner, Viktor, 2000. "Returns to education in West Germany: an empirical assessment," ZEW Discussion Papers 00-04, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    5. Dustmann, Christian & van Soest, Arthur, 1998. "Public and private sector wages of male workers in Germany," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 42(8), pages 1417-1441, September.
    6. Welch, Finis, 1979. "Effects of Cohort Size on Earnings: The Baby Boom Babies' Financial Bust," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages 65-97, October.
    7. Card, David, 1999. "The causal effect of education on earnings," Handbook of Labor Economics,in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 30, pages 1801-1863 Elsevier.
    8. Richard B. Freeman, 1979. "The Effect of Demographic Factors on Age-Earnings Profiles," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 14(3), pages 289-318.
    9. Diane J. Macunovich, 1999. "The fortunes of one's birth: Relative cohort size and the youth labor market in the United States," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, pages 215-272.
    10. Fitzenberger, Bernd & Franz, Wolfgang, 1997. "Flexibilität der qualifikatorischen Lohnstruktur und Lastverteilung der Arbeitslosigkeit: Eine ökonometrische Analyse für Westdeutschland," ZEW Discussion Papers 97-32, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    11. Finis Welch, 1979. "Effects of Cohort Size on Earnings: The Baby Boom Babies' Financial Bust," UCLA Economics Working Papers 146, UCLA Department of Economics.
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    JEL classification:

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


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