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Education and Income in the Early 20th Century: Evidence from the Prairies

  • Goldin, Claudia
  • Katz, Lawrence

We present the first estimates of the returns to years of schooling before 1940 using a large sample individuals (from the 1915 Iowa State Census). The returns to a year of high school or college were substantial in 1915—about 11 percent for all males and in excess of 12 percent for young males. Education enabled individuals to enter lucrative white-collar jobs, but sizable educational wage differentials also existed within occupational groups. Returns were substantial even for those in farming. We find, using U.S. census data, that returns to education decreased between 1915 and 1940 and again during the 1940s.

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File URL: http://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/2624456/Goldin_EducationIncome.pdf
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Paper provided by Harvard University Department of Economics in its series Scholarly Articles with number 2624456.

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Date of creation: 2000
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in The Journal of Economic History
Handle: RePEc:hrv:faseco:2624456
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  1. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 1996. "The Origins of Technology-Skill Complementarity," NBER Working Papers 5657, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Goldin, Claudia, 1998. "America's Graduation from High School: The Evolution and Spread of Secondary Schooling in the Twentieth Century," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 58(02), pages 345-374, June.
  3. 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.
  4. Paul Taubman & Terence Wales, 1972. "Mental Ability and Higher Educational Attainment in the 20th Century," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number taub72-1, June.
  5. Lillard, Lee & Smith, James P & Welch, Finis, 1986. "What Do We Really Know about Wages? The Importance of Nonreporting and Census Imputation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(3), pages 489-506, June.
  6. Chinhui Juhn, 1999. "Wage inequality and demand for skill: Evidence from five decades," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 52(3), pages 424-443, April.
  7. Bishop, John Hillman, 1989. "Is the Test Score Decline Responsible for the Productivity Growth Decline?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(1), pages 178-97, March.
  8. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 1995. "The Decline of Non-Competing Groups: Changes in the Premium to Education, 1890 to 1940," NBER Working Papers 5202, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 1999. "The Returns to Skill in the United States across the Twentieth Century," NBER Working Papers 7126, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Chinhui Juhn, 1999. "Wage Inequality and Demand for Skill: Evidence from Five Decades," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 52(3), pages 424-443, April.
  11. Welch, F, 1970. "Education in Production," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 78(1), pages 35-59, Jan.-Feb..
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