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The Returns to Elite College Education: A Quasi-Experimental Analysis

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  • Massimo Anelli

Abstract

I take advantage of a sharp discontinuity in the probability of admission to an elite university at the admission score threshold, to estimate causal returns to college education quality. I use a newly constructed dataset, which combines individual administrative records about high school, college admission, college attendance and tax returns. Students with score just above the admission threshold have 52% higher yearly income with respect to just-below-threshold students. This premium is equivalent to a jump from the 44th percentile to the 74th percentile of the income distribution. The richness of the data allows me to explore the counterfactual college career of not admitted students and the potential mechanisms underlying the estimated income premium. I find that students with a just-above-threshold score are less likely to be college dropouts, take six fewer months to graduate, choose different majors and are more likely to have income in the top quartile of the distribution. Cumulated over fifteen years, the time span of income data for my sample, the net premium of attending the elite university amounts to around $120,000.

Suggested Citation

  • Massimo Anelli, 2016. "The Returns to Elite College Education: A Quasi-Experimental Analysis," CESifo Working Paper Series 6076, CESifo.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_6076
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    Cited by:

    1. Leah Achdut & Elad Gutman & Idan Lipiner & Inbal Maayan & Noam Zussman, 2018. "The Wage Premium on Higher Education: Universities and Colleges," Bank of Israel Working Papers 2018.13, Bank of Israel.
    2. Andrews, Rodney J. & Imberman, Scott A. & Lovenheim, Michael F., 2020. "Recruiting and supporting low-income, high-achieving students at flagship universities," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 74(C).
    3. Sandra E. Black & Jeffrey T. Denning & Jesse Rothstein, 2020. "Winners and Losers? The Effect of Gaining and Losing Access to Selective Colleges on Education and Labor Market Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 26821, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Hersch, Joni, 2019. "Catching Up Is Hard to Do: Undergraduate Prestige, Elite Graduate Programs, and the Earnings Premium," Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 10(3), pages 503-553, October.
    5. Schwerter, Jakob, 2020. "Impact of universities in a flat hierarchy: Do degrees from top universities lead to a higher wage?," VfS Annual Conference 2020 (Virtual Conference): Gender Economics 224583, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    6. Sylvie Démurger & Eric A. Hanushek & Lei Zhang, 2019. "Employer Learning and the Dynamics of Returns to Universities: Evidence from Chinese Elite Education during University Expansion," NBER Working Papers 25955, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Machin, Stephen & McNally, Sandra & Ruiz-Valenzuela, Jenifer, 2020. "Entry through the narrow door: The costs of just failing high stakes exams," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 190(C).
    8. Ben Ost & Weixiang Pan & Douglas Webber, 2018. "The Returns to College Persistence for Marginal Students: Regression Discontinuity Evidence from University Dismissal Policies," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 36(3), pages 779-805.
    9. Bleemer, Zachary, 2020. "Affirmative Action, Mismatch, and Economic Mobility After California’s Proposition 209," University of California at Berkeley, Center for Studies in Higher Education qt2w21n06w, Center for Studies in Higher Education, UC Berkeley.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    education quality; returns to education; human capital;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • I22 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Educational Finance; Financial Aid
    • I23 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Higher Education; Research Institutions
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy
    • 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

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