The Returns to Academic and Vocational Qualifications in Britain
This paper uses data from the 1991 sweep of the National Child Development Study (NCDS) and the 1998 Labour Force Survey (LFS) to provide a comprehensive analysis of the labour market returns to academic and vocational qualifications. The results show that the wage premia from academic qualifications are typically higher than from vocational qualifications. However, this gap is reduced somewhat, when we control for the amount of time taken to acquire different qualifications. This is particularly important for vocational courses, which generally take shorter time periods to complete. In the paper we also investigate how returns vary by gender, subsequent qualifications, and the natural ability of individuals. Finally, by comparing the NCDS results with those from the LFS, we estimate the bias that can result from not controlling for factors such as ability, family background and measurement error. The results reveal that the estimated returns in the NCDS equations controlling for ability, family background and measurement error are similar to the simple OLS estimates obtained with the LFS, which do not control for these factors. This suggests that the biases generally offset one another. Copyright 2002 by Blackwell Publishing Ltd and the Board of Trustees of the Bulletin of Economic Research
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