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College Risk and Return

Listed author(s):
  • Gonzalo Castex

Attending college is thought of as a very profitable investment decision, as its estimated annualized return ranges from 8% to 13%. However, a large fraction of high school graduates do not enroll in college. I reconcile the observed high average returns to schooling with relatively low attendance rates when considering college as a risky investment decision. A high dropout risk has two important effects on the estimated average returns to college: selection bias and risk premium. In order to explicitly consider the selection bias, I explore the dropout risk in a life-cycle model with heterogeneous ability. The risk-premium of college participation accounts for 21% of the excess returns to college education for highability students and 19% of the excess return for low-ability students. Risk averse agents are willing to reduce their return to college in order to avoid the dropout risk. The effect is not uniform across ability levels.

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Paper provided by Central Bank of Chile in its series Working Papers Central Bank of Chile with number 606.

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Date of creation: Jan 2011
Handle: RePEc:chb:bcchwp:606
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  1. Akyol, Ahmet & Athreya, Kartik, 2005. "Risky higher education and subsidies," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 29(6), pages 979-1023, June.
  2. Carlos Garriga & Mark P. Keightley, 2007. "A general equilibrium theory of college with education subsidies, in-school labor supply, and borrowing constraints," Working Papers 2007-051, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
  3. Carneiro, Pedro & Heckman, James J & Masterov, Dimitriy V, 2005. "Labor Market Discrimination and Racial Differences in Premarket Factors," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 48(1), pages 1-39, April.
  4. Diego Restuccia & Carlos Urrutia, 2004. "Intergenerational Persistence of Earnings: The Role of Early and College Education," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(5), pages 1354-1378, December.
  5. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 2007. "The Race between Education and Technology: The Evolution of U.S. Educational Wage Differentials, 1890 to 2005," NBER Working Papers 12984, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Heckman, James, 2013. "Sample selection bias as a specification error," Applied Econometrics, Publishing House "SINERGIA PRESS", vol. 31(3), pages 129-137.
  7. Felicia Ionescu, 2009. "The Federal Student Loan Program: Quantitative Implications for College Enrollment and Default Rates," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 12(1), pages 205-231, January.
  8. Philippe Belley & Lance Lochner, 2007. "The Changing Role of Family Income and Ability in Determining Educational Achievement," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 1(1), pages 37-89.
  9. Card, David, 2001. "Estimating the Return to Schooling: Progress on Some Persistent Econometric Problems," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(5), pages 1127-1160, September.
  10. 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.
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