Factor Endowments and the Returns to Skill: New Evidence from the American Past
Existing skill-biased technical change theory predicts that differences in factor endowments will affect technology adoption and the return to skill. We document regional variation in endowments in the American past. We then estimate the returns to education using a new data source: a report from the Commissioner of Education in 1909. We find significant variation in the returns to schooling aligned with differences in resource endowments, with large (within-occupation) returns in the Midwest and Southwest but much lower returns in the South and West. Our results appear generalizable to broader returns to education in the United States.
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