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Make Your Own Luck: The Wage Gains from Starting College in a Bad Economy

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  • Alena Bicakova
  • Guido Matias Cortes
  • Jacopo Mazza

Abstract

Using data for nearly 40 cohorts of American college graduates and exploiting regional variation in economic conditions, we show robust evidence of a positive relationship between the unemployment rate at the time of college enrollment and subsequent annual earnings, particularly for women. This positive relationship cannot be explained by selection into employment or by economic conditions at the time of graduation. Changes in major field of study account for only about 10% of the observed earnings gains. The results are consistent with intensified effort exerted by students who experience bad economic times at the beginning of their studies.

Suggested Citation

  • Alena Bicakova & Guido Matias Cortes & Jacopo Mazza, 2021. "Make Your Own Luck: The Wage Gains from Starting College in a Bad Economy," CERGE-EI Working Papers wp698, The Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education - Economics Institute, Prague.
  • Handle: RePEc:cer:papers:wp698
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    business cycle; higher education; cohort effects;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I23 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Higher Education; Research Institutions
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles

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