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Mincer Equation, Power Law of Learning, and Efficient Education Policy


  • Richter, Wolfram F.

    () (TU Dortmund)


The basis for the empirical research on earnings determination is the Mincer equation. Individuals are assumed to make schooling decisions by maximizing earnings. Leisure costs of schooling and labour supply are neglected which has some empirically implausible implications. This paper shows a way of deriving a Mincer-type earnings function from the more standard assumption of utility maximization. The implications are less questionable. The approach allows one to analyse the efficiency of education policy in Ramsey's tradition. Distortive wage taxation is shown to provide reason for subsidizing education in effective terms. Second-best policy is confronted with empirical evidence on OECD countries.

Suggested Citation

  • Richter, Wolfram F., 2013. "Mincer Equation, Power Law of Learning, and Efficient Education Policy," IZA Discussion Papers 7280, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp7280

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Willis, Robert J & Rosen, Sherwin, 1979. "Education and Self-Selection," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages 7-36, October.
    2. Richter, Wolfram F., 2009. "Taxing education in Ramsey's tradition," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(11-12), pages 1254-1260, December.
    3. Jacob A. Mincer, 1974. "Introduction to "Schooling, Experience, and Earnings"," NBER Chapters,in: Schooling, Experience, and Earnings, pages 1-4 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. James J. Heckman & Lance J. Lochner & Petra E. Todd, 2008. "Earnings Functions and Rates of Return," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 2(1), pages 1-31.
    5. Pedro Carneiro & James J. Heckman & Edward J. Vytlacil, 2011. "Estimating Marginal Returns to Education," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(6), pages 2754-2781, October.
    6. Anderberg, Dan, 2009. "Optimal policy and the risk properties of human capital reconsidered," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(9-10), pages 1017-1026, October.
    7. Michael P. Keane, 2011. "Labor Supply and Taxes: A Survey," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 49(4), pages 961-1075, December.
    8. Jacob A. Mincer, 1974. "Schooling, Experience, and Earnings," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number minc74-1, January.
    9. Hubert Strauss & Christine de la Maisonneuve, 2009. "The wage premium on tertiary education: New estimates for 21 OECD countries," OECD Journal: Economic Studies, OECD Publishing, vol. 2009(1), pages 1-29.
    10. Wolfram F. Richter, 2011. "Efficient Education Policy - A Second-Order Elasticity Rule," FinanzArchiv: Public Finance Analysis, Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 67(1), pages 1-7, March.
    11. Jacob Mincer, 1958. "Investment in Human Capital and Personal Income Distribution," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 66, pages 281-281.
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    Cited by:

    1. Carlos Bethencourt & Lars Kunze, 2017. "Temptation and the efficient taxation of education and labor," Metroeconomica, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 68(4), pages 986-1000, November.

    More about this item


    Mincer equation; earnings determination; maximizing utility vs. earnings; power law of learning; second-best taxation in Ramsey's tradition; education elasticity rule;

    JEL classification:

    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy

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