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Absolute Risk Aversion and the Returns to Education


  • Brunello, Giorgio

    () (University of Padova)


Individual absolute risk aversion is measured for a sample of 1373 male household heads, using the 1995 wave of the Survey on the Income and Wealth of Italian households. This measure, conditional on financial and real wealth and household income, is used as an instrument for attained education in a standard log earnings equation. I find that, in line with the literature, the gap between IV and OLS estimates of the returns to education is large.

Suggested Citation

  • Brunello, Giorgio, 2000. "Absolute Risk Aversion and the Returns to Education," IZA Discussion Papers 192, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp192

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Robert B. Barsky & Miles S. Kimball & F. Thomas Juster & Matthew D. Shapiro, 1995. "Preference Parameters and Behavioral Heterogeneity: An Experimental Approach in the Health and Retirement Survey," NBER Working Papers 5213, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Fersterer, Josef & Winter-Ebmer, Rudolf, 2003. "Smoking, discount rates, and returns to education," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 22(6), pages 561-566, December.
    3. Lucifora, Claudio & Comi, Simona & Brunello, Giorgio, 2000. "The Returns to Education in Italy: A New Look at the Evidence," IZA Discussion Papers 130, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. Harmon, Colm & Walker, Ian, 1995. "Estimates of the Economic Return to Schooling for the United Kingdom," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(5), pages 1278-1286, December.
    5. 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.
    6. Robert B. Barsky & F. Thomas Juster & Miles S. Kimball & Matthew D. Shapiro, 1997. "Preference Parameters and Behavioral Heterogeneity: An Experimental Approach in the Health and Retirement Study," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(2), pages 537-579.
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    Cited by:

    1. Belzil, Christian & Leonardi, Marco, 2007. "Can risk aversion explain schooling attainments? Evidence from Italy," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(6), pages 957-970, December.
    2. Rieger, Matthias, 2015. "Risk aversion, time preference and health production: Theory and empirical evidence from Cambodia," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 17(C), pages 1-15.
    3. Checchi, Daniele & Fiorio, Carlo V. & Leonardi, Marco, 2014. "Parents' risk aversion and children's educational attainment," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(C), pages 164-175.
    4. Schneider Brit S. & Schneider Udo & Ulrich Volker, 2007. "Health and the Decision to Invest in Education," Journal of Economics and Statistics (Jahrbuecher fuer Nationaloekonomie und Statistik), De Gruyter, vol. 227(5-6), pages 725-746, October.
    5. Oswald, Yvonne & Backes-Gellner, Uschi, 2014. "Learning for a bonus: How financial incentives interact with preferences," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 52-61.
    6. Giorgio Brunello & Lorenzo Rocco, 2008. "Educational Standards in Private and Public Schools," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 118(533), pages 1866-1887, November.
    7. Guiso, Luigi & Paiella, Monica, 2004. "The Role of Risk Aversion in Predicting Individual Behaviours," CEPR Discussion Papers 4591, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    8. Inmaculada García Mainar & Víctor M. Montuenga Gómez, 2004. "Returns to education and to experience within the EU: are there differences between wage earners and the self-employed?," Documentos de Trabajo dt2004-08, Facultad de Ciencias Económicas y Empresariales, Universidad de Zaragoza.
    9. Nathan Kettlewell, 2016. "Utilisation and Selection in an Ancillaries Health Insurance Market," Discussion Papers 2016-17, School of Economics, The University of New South Wales.
    10. Angela Cipollone, 2011. "Education as a Precautionary Asset," Working Papers CELEG 1108, Dipartimento di Economia e Finanza, LUISS Guido Carli.
    11. Sephavand, Mohammad & Shahbazian, Roujman, 2017. "Individual’s Risk Attitudes in sub-Saharan Africa: Determinants and Reliability of Self-reported Risk in Burkina Faso," Working Paper Series 2017:11, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
    12. Fersterer, Josef & Winter-Ebmer, Rudolf, 2003. "Smoking, discount rates, and returns to education," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 22(6), pages 561-566, December.
    13. Diaz-Serrano, Luis, 2005. "On the negative relationship between labor income uncertainty and homeownership: Risk-aversion vs. credit constraints," Journal of Housing Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(2), pages 109-126, June.
    14. Xiaohao Ding & Joop Hartog & Yuze Sun, 2010. "Can we measure Individual Risk Attitudes in a Survey?," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 10-027/3, Tinbergen Institute.
    15. Park, Seonyoung, 2011. "Returning to school for higher returns," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(6), pages 1215-1228.
    16. Marco Leonardi, 2007. "Do Parents Risk Aversion and Wealth Explalin Secondary School Choice?," Giornale degli Economisti, GDE (Giornale degli Economisti e Annali di Economia), Bocconi University, vol. 66(2), pages 177-206, July.
    17. Jaime Ruiz-Tagle V. & Pablo Tapia G., 2012. "Brechas por Género en Aversión al Riesgo," Working Papers wp373, University of Chile, Department of Economics.
    18. Elamin H. Elbasha, 2005. "Risk aversion and uncertainty in cost-effectiveness analysis: the expected-utility, moment-generating function approach," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 14(5), pages 457-470.
    19. Sarah Brown & Karl Taylor, 2006. "Education, Risk Preference and Wages," Working Papers 2006002, The University of Sheffield, Department of Economics, revised Feb 2006.
    20. Garcia-Mainar, Inmaculada & Montuenga-Gomez, Victor M., 2005. "Education returns of wage earners and self-employed workers: Portugal vs. Spain," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 161-170, April.
    21. Eisenhauer, Joseph G., 2010. "Rank-ordering of risk preferences with conventional and discrete measures," The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 50(3), pages 291-297, August.

    More about this item


    Returns to education; instrumental variables;

    JEL classification:

    • 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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