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Risk Aversion and Human Capital Investment: A Structural Econometric Model

  • Brodaty, Thomas
  • Gary-Bobo, Robert J.
  • Prieto, Ana

We propose to model individual educational investments as a rational decision, maximizing expected utility, conditional on some characteristics observed by the student, under the combined risks affecting future wages and schooling duration. Assuming that students' attitudes toward risk can be represented by a CRRA utility, we show that the risk-aversion parameter can be identified in a natural way, using the variation in school-leaving ages, conditional on certified educational levels. Estimation can be performed by means of classic Maximum Likelihood methods. The model can easily be compared with a non-structural, simplified version, which is a standard wage equation with endogenous dummy variables representing education levels, education levels being themselves determined by an Ordered Probit model. We find small but significant values of the coefficient of relative risk aversion, between 0.1 and 0.9. These results are obtained with a rich sample of 12,500 young men who left the educational system in 1992, in France.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 5694.

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Date of creation: Jun 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:5694
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  1. Lee, Lung-Fei, 1983. "Generalized Econometric Models with Selectivity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 51(2), pages 507-12, March.
  2. Heckman, James J, 1978. "Dummy Endogenous Variables in a Simultaneous Equation System," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 46(4), pages 931-59, July.
  3. Keane, Michael P & Wolpin, Kenneth I, 1997. "The Career Decisions of Young Men," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(3), pages 473-522, June.
  4. Levhari, David & Weiss, Yoram, 1974. "The Effect of Risk on the Investment in Human Capital," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 64(6), pages 950-63, December.
  5. Colm Harmon & Hessel Oosterbeek & Ian Walker, 2003. "The Returns to Education: Microeconomics," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 17(2), pages 115-156, 04.
  6. Weiss, Yoram, 1972. "The Risk Element in Occupational and Educational Choices," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 80(6), pages 1203-13, Nov.-Dec..
  7. Ignacio Palacios-Huerta, 2001. "An Empirical Analysis of the Risk Properties of Human Capital Returns," Working Papers 2001-10, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  8. Belzil, Christian & Leonardi, Marco, 2006. "Can Risk Aversion Explain Schooling Attainments? Evidence from Italy," IZA Discussion Papers 2123, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  9. Stephen V. Cameron & James J. Heckman, 1998. "Life Cycle Schooling and Dynamic Selection Bias: Models and Evidence for Five Cohorts of American Males," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(2), pages 262-333, April.
  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.
  11. Hogan, Vincent & Walker, Ian, 2007. "Education choice under uncertainty: Implications for public policy," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(6), pages 894-912, December.
  12. Belzil, Christian & Hansen, Jörgen, 2002. "Earnings Dispersion, Risk Aversion and Education," CEPR Discussion Papers 3600, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  13. S Black & Paul Devereux & Kjell Salvanes, 2005. "The More the Merrier? The Effect of Family Size and Birth Order on Childrens Education," CEE Discussion Papers 0050, Centre for the Economics of Education, LSE.
  14. Gary-Bobo, Robert J. & Picard, Natalie & Prieto, Ana, 2006. "Birth Order and Sibship Sex Composition as Instruments in the Study of Education and Earnings," CEPR Discussion Papers 5514, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  15. repec:tpr:qjecon:v:120:y:2005:i:2:p:669-700 is not listed on IDEAS
  16. Hartog, Joop & Vijverberg, Wim P., 2002. "Do Wages Really Compensate for Risk Aversion and Skewness Affection?," IZA Discussion Papers 426, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  17. Vuong, Quang H, 1989. "Likelihood Ratio Tests for Model Selection and Non-nested Hypotheses," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(2), pages 307-33, March.
  18. Williams, Joseph T, 1979. "Uncertainty and the Accumulation of Human Capital over the Life Cycle," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 52(4), pages 521-48, October.
  19. repec:oup:qjecon:v:120:y:2005:i:2:p:669-700 is not listed on IDEAS
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