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College Achievement and Earnings

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  • Gemus, Jonathan

    (Department of Economics)

Abstract

I study the size and sources of the monetary return to college achievement as measured by cumulative Grade Point Average (GPA). I first present evidence that the return to achievement is large and statistically significant. I find, however, that this masks variation in the return across different groups of people. In particular, there is no relationship between GPA and earnings for graduate degree holders but a large and positive relationship for people without a graduate degree. To reconcile these results, I develop a model where students of differing and initially uncertain ability levels choose effort level in college and whether to earn a graduate degree. College achievement and graduate attainment are allowed to increase human capital and be used by employers to screen workers. In the separating equilibrium studied, workers who earn a graduate degree can effectively signal high productivity to employers. As a result, employers use undergraduate GPA-a noisy signal of productivity-to screen only the workers who do not hold a graduate degree. Viewing the empirical results through the lens of this equilibrium, the zero GPA-earnings relationship for graduate degree holders and the positive and large relationship for people without a graduate degree suggests that most of the reutrn to achievement net of graduate educational attainment is driven by sorting.

Suggested Citation

  • Gemus, Jonathan, 2010. "College Achievement and Earnings," Working Paper Series 2010:1, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:uunewp:2010_001
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    1. College Achievement and Earnings
      by Ariel Goldring in Free Market Mojo on 2010-02-16 14:18:26

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Returns to Education; Academic Achievement; Signaling; Human Capital;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General
    • 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

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