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Are Student Exchange Programs Worth It?


  • Messer, Dolores

    () (University of Bern)

  • Wolter, Stefan C.

    () (University of Bern)


The number of university students participating in exchange programs has risen sharply over the last decade, but a survey of Swiss university graduates (class of 1999 and 2001) shows that participation in student exchange programs significantly prolongs the period of time spent studying at university. Given this fact, the advantages of exchange programs for students need to be identified. Analyses show that student exchange programs are associated with higher starting salaries and an increased likelihood of opting for postgraduate study – but only if all exchange semesters are factored in, not just those accredited by the university of matriculation. Using instrumental variable estimations (IV), however, shows that the cited outcomes are not causally related to participation in exchange programs. Therefore the big question is: Where's the benefit that justifies having to study for almost a whole year longer?

Suggested Citation

  • Messer, Dolores & Wolter, Stefan C., 2005. "Are Student Exchange Programs Worth It?," IZA Discussion Papers 1656, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp1656

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Joshua D. Angrist & Alan B. Krueger, 2001. "Instrumental Variables and the Search for Identification: From Supply and Demand to Natural Experiments," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(4), pages 69-85, Fall.
    2. Jere R. Behrman & Mark R. Rosenzweig, 2002. "Does Increasing Women's Schooling Raise the Schooling of the Next Generation?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(1), pages 323-334, March.
    3. Groot, Wim & Maassen van den Brink, Henriette, 2000. "Overeducation in the labor market: a meta-analysis," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 19(2), pages 149-158, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Pedro Jose Perez Vazquez & Cristóbal González-Baixauli & Elvira Montañes-Brunet, 2016. "Rendimientos académicos de la participación en el programa Erasmus: un análisis empírico," Investigaciones de Economía de la Educación volume 11,in: José Manuel Cordero Ferrera & Rosa Simancas Rodríguez (ed.), Investigaciones de Economía de la Educación 11, edition 1, volume 11, chapter 14, pages 283-300 Asociación de Economía de la Educación.
    2. Dolores Messer & Stefan Wolter, 2010. "Time-to-degree and the business cycle," Education Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 18(1), pages 111-123.
    3. Jacek Liwinski, 2016. "Does it pay to study abroad? Evidence from Poland," Proceedings of Economics and Finance Conferences 4206786, International Institute of Social and Economic Sciences.
    4. Rafael Gonzalez & Christopher Stehr, 2015. "The Effects of International Study Tours in the Decision of Students to Go to Work Abroad – The Example of the GGS’ IST to Turkey and Russia (Wplyw miedzynarodowych wizyt studyjnych na decyzje student," Research Reports, University of Warsaw, Faculty of Management, vol. 2(19), pages 37-49.
    5. José Manuel Cordero Ferrera & Rosa Simancas Rodríguez (ed.), 2016. "Investigaciones de Economía de la Educación," E-books Investigaciones de Economía de la Educación, Asociación de Economía de la Educación, edition 1, volume 11, number 11, Winter.
    6. Ekrem Akkaya & Ayse Mumcu, 2011. "ERSAMUS Student Exchange Programs: How to place students?," Working Papers 2011/02, Bogazici University, Department of Economics.
    7. Ekrem Akkaya & Ayþe Mumcu, 2012. "Student Placement Problems: An Application to the ERASMUS Exchange Program," Bogazici Journal, Review of Social, Economic and Administrative Studies, Bogazici University, Department of Economics, vol. 26(2), pages 63-82.
    8. Rafael González & Christopher Stehr, 2015. "Participating In International Study Tours Leads To Entrepreneurial Success Abroad – A Research On The Positive Effects Of International Exchange Tours," GUT FME Conference Publications,in: Katarzyna Stankiewicz (ed.), Contemporary Issues and Challenges in Human Resource Management, chapter 15, pages 165-175 Faculty of Management and Economics, Gdansk University of Technology.
    9. Meya, Johannes & Suntheim, Katharina, 2014. "The second dividend of studying abroad: The impact of international student mobility on academic performance," Center for European, Governance and Economic Development Research Discussion Papers 215, University of Goettingen, Department of Economics.
    10. Jacek Liwiński, 2016. "Does it pay to study abroad? Evidence from Poland," Working Papers 2016-25, Faculty of Economic Sciences, University of Warsaw.
    11. Donald Lien & Yaqin Wang, 2010. "Optimal design for study-abroad scholarship: the effect of payback policy," Education Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 18(2), pages 191-205.
    12. Luca Favero & Andreina Fucci, 2017. "The Erasmus effect on earnings: a panel analysis from Siena," Department of Economics University of Siena 762, Department of Economics, University of Siena.

    More about this item


    graduate survey; exchange semester; Switzerland; ERASMUS; instrumental variables;

    JEL classification:

    • I23 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Higher Education; Research Institutions
    • 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
    • J44 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Professional Labor Markets and Occupations

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