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Unobserved Ability and the Return to Schooling

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  • Belzil, Christian

    (Ecole Polytechnique, Paris)

  • Hansen, Jörgen

    (Concordia University)

Abstract

We estimate a structural dynamic programming model of schooling decisions with unobserved heterogeneity in school ability and market ability on a sample taken from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY). Both the instantaneous utility of attending school and the wage regression function are estimated flexibly. The null hypothesis that the local returns to schooling are constant is strongly rejected in favor of a convex wage regression function composed of 8 spline segments. The local returns are very low until grade 11 (1% per year or less), increase to 3.7% in grade 12 and exceed 10% only from grade 14 to grade 16. The average return increases smoothly from 0.4% (grade 7) to 4.6% (grade 16). The convexity of the log wage regression function implies that those who obtain more schooling also experience higher average returns. We strongly reject the null hypothesis that unobserved market ability is uncorrelated with realized schooling attainments, which underlies many previous studies that have used OLS to estimate the return to schooling. The correlation between realized schooling and market ability is found to be positive and is consistent with the existence of a positive “Ability Bias”.

Suggested Citation

  • Belzil, Christian & Hansen, Jörgen, 2002. "Unobserved Ability and the Return to Schooling," IZA Discussion Papers 508, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp508
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Rust, John, 1987. "Optimal Replacement of GMC Bus Engines: An Empirical Model of Harold Zurcher," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(5), pages 999-1033, September.
    2. Belzil, Christian & Hansen, Jorgen, 2007. "A structural analysis of the correlated random coefficient wage regression model," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 140(2), pages 827-848, October.
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    6. Douglas Staiger & James H. Stock, 1997. "Instrumental Variables Regression with Weak Instruments," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(3), pages 557-586, May.
    7. Christian Belzil & Jörgen Hansen, 2002. "Unobserved Ability and the Return to Schooling," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(5), pages 2075-2091, September.
    8. Charles F. Manski & John V. Pepper, 2000. "Monotone Instrumental Variables, with an Application to the Returns to Schooling," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 68(4), pages 997-1012, July.
    9. Keane, Michael P & Wolpin, Kenneth I, 1997. "The Career Decisions of Young Men," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(3), pages 473-522, June.
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    11. James Heckman & Edward Vytlacil, 1998. "Instrumental Variables Methods for the Correlated Random Coefficient Model: Estimating the Average Rate of Return to Schooling When the Return is Correlated with Schooling," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 33(4), pages 974-987.
    12. Richard Blundell & James L. Powell, 2001. "Endogeneity in nonparametric and semiparametric regression models," CeMMAP working papers CWP09/01, Centre for Microdata Methods and Practice, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
    13. Audrey Light & Wayne Strayer, 2000. "Determinants of College Completion: School Quality or Student Ability?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 35(2), pages 299-332.
    14. Lang, Kevin, 1993. "Ability Bias, Discount Rate Bias and the Return to Education," MPRA Paper 24651, University Library of Munich, Germany.
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    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    discount rate bias; return to schooling; dynamic programming; ability bias;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J2 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor
    • J3 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs

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