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Does Examination Hell Pay Off? A Cost-Benefit Analysis of "Ronin" and College Education in Japan




College-bound students in Japan undergo a process of intense preparation known as examination hell. An extreme manifestation of examination hell is the ronin phenomenon. Typically thirty percent of students choose the ronin option under which they spend years in addition to high school preparing for the next year fs college entrance examinations. Using the mean scores of the entrance examinations as a measure of college quality, I find that college quality significantly improves the internal rate of return (IRR) to college education among the sample of male graduates in Japan. Ronin increases earnings indirectly by improving the quality of the college attended. I also show that the IRR with respect to ronin is one of diminishing returns. On average, the number of ronin years which maximizes the IRR is found to be somewhere between one and two years.

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  • Ono, Hiroshi, 1999. "Does Examination Hell Pay Off? A Cost-Benefit Analysis of "Ronin" and College Education in Japan," SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance 346, Stockholm School of Economics, revised 01 Dec 2005.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:hastef:0346

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Willis, Robert J & Rosen, Sherwin, 1979. "Education and Self-Selection," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages 7-36, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Dang, Hai-Anh H., 2013. "Private tutoring in Vietnam : a review of current issues and its major correlates," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6618, The World Bank.
    2. Stefanie Hof, 2014. "Does Private Tutoring Work? The Effectiveness of Private Tutoring: A Nonparametric Bounds Analysis," Economics of Education Working Paper Series 0096, University of Zurich, Department of Business Administration (IBW).
    3. Daiji Kawaguchi & Hiroshi Ono, "undated". "Educational Credentialism and Elite Formation in Japan: A Long-term Perspective," Working Papers e54, Tokyo Center for Economic Research.
    4. Kubota, Kohei, 2016. "Effects of Japanese compulsory educational reforms on household educational expenditure," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 47-60.
    5. Zhang, Yu, 2013. "Does private tutoring improve students’ National College Entrance Exam performance?—A case study from Jinan, China," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 32(C), pages 1-28.

    More about this item


    Human capital formation; economics of education; examination hell; ronin; cost-benefit analysis;

    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • 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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