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Flexibility at a Cost: Should Governments Stimulate Tertiary Education for Adults?

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  • Stenberg, Anders

    (SOFI, Stockholm University)

  • Westerlund, Olle

    (Umeå University)

Abstract

Most OECD countries experience high unemployment rates and declining growth in higher educational attainment. An often suggested government policy is therefore to allocate resources towards formal schooling for adults. However, returns on such investments are uncertain and the foregone earnings are potentially large. We use Swedish population register data from 1982 to 2011 to estimate average long run earnings returns on higher education for 29- to 55-year-olds who enrolled 1992-1993. We find substantial positive estimates, but these only fully emerge after approximately ten years. Nevertheless, calculations indicate that the benefits for society exceed the costs also under fairly pessimistic assumptions.

Suggested Citation

  • Stenberg, Anders & Westerlund, Olle, 2015. "Flexibility at a Cost: Should Governments Stimulate Tertiary Education for Adults?," IZA Discussion Papers 9047, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp9047
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    Cited by:

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    2. Stenberg, Anders, 2022. "A Note on Evaluating Formal Education for Adults," Working Paper Series 1/2022, Stockholm University, Swedish Institute for Social Research, revised 14 Jun 2022.
    3. Petri Böckerman & Mika Haapanen & Christopher Jepsen, 2018. "Labor-Market Returns to Higher Vocational Schooling," CESifo Working Paper Series 7197, CESifo.
    4. Karlsson, Linn, 2021. "Never too late? Returning to university after completing secondary education as adults," Umeå Economic Studies 1002, Umeå University, Department of Economics.
    5. Kauhanen, Antti & Virtanen, Hanna, 2021. "Heterogeneity in Labor Market Returns to Adult Education," ETLA Working Papers 91, The Research Institute of the Finnish Economy.
    6. Anders Stenberg & Olle Westerlund, 2013. "Education and retirement: does University education at mid-age extend working life?," IZA Journal of European Labor Studies, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 2(1), pages 1-22, December.
    7. Stenberg, Anders, 2022. "Does formal education for adults yield long-term multiplier effects or human capital depreciation?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 90(C).

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    adult education; human capital; earnings;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • H30 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - General
    • H52 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Government Expenditures and Education
    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • O30 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - General

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