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The Economic Returns to Field of Study and Competencies Among Higher Education Graduates in Ireland


  • Elish Kelly

    (Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI))

  • Philip O'Connell

    (Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI))

  • Emer Smyth

    (Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI))


This paper looks at the economic returns to different fields of study in Ireland in 2004 and also the value placed on various job-related competencies, accumulated on completion of higher education, in the Irish labour market. In examining these issues the paper seeks to control for potential selection influences by ensuring through quantile regression that comparisons are made within sections of the wage distribution where ability differences are likely to be minimal. The impact that education-job mismatch, both education-level and field, has on earnings is also taken into consideration. The results derived indicate that, relative to the base case, there are higher returns to Medicine & Veterinary, Education, Engineering & Architecture, Science and Computers & IT. The quantile regression analysis reveals that the OLS estimates are not particularly affected by unobserved heterogeneity bias. Furthermore, this approach indicates that field specific returns diminish the more able the graduate. Small but significant returns were found for some of the competencies analysed, in particular technical skills.

Suggested Citation

  • Elish Kelly & Philip O'Connell & Emer Smyth, 2008. "The Economic Returns to Field of Study and Competencies Among Higher Education Graduates in Ireland," Papers WP242, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
  • Handle: RePEc:esr:wpaper:wp242

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item


    Field of Study; Competencies; Returns to Education; Quantile Regression; Ireland;

    JEL classification:

    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J30 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - General
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials

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