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How Large are the Social Returns to Education? Evidence from Compulsory Schooling Laws

  • Daron Acemoglu
  • Joshua Angrist

Average schooling in US states is highly correlated with state wage levels, even after controlling for the direct effect of schooling on individual wages. We use an instrumental variables strategy to determine whether this relationship is driven by social returns to education. The instrumentals for average schooling are derived from information on the child labor laws and compulsory attendance laws that affected men in our Census samples, while quarter of birth is used as an instrument for individual schooling. This results in precisely estimated private returns to education of about seven percent, and small social returns, typically less than one percent, that are not significantly different from zero.

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Paper provided by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics in its series Working papers with number 99-30.

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Date of creation: Nov 1999
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mit:worpap:99-30
Phone: (617) 253-3361
Fax: (617) 253-1330
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  10. Joshua Angrist & Alan Krueger, 1998. "Empirical Strategies in Labor Economics," Working papers 98-7, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  11. Topel, Robert, 1999. "Labor markets and economic growth," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 44, pages 2943-2984 Elsevier.
  12. Lang, Kevin, 1993. "Ability Bias, Discount Rate Bias and the Return to Education," MPRA Paper 24651, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  13. Daron Acemoglu, 1998. "Changes in Unemployment and Wage Inequality: An Alternative Theory and Some Evidence," NBER Working Papers 6658, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Lucas, Robert Jr., 1988. "On the mechanics of economic development," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 3-42, July.
  15. Joshua D. Angrist & Alan B. Krueger, 1990. "Does Compulsory School Attendance Affect Schooling and Earnings?," NBER Working Papers 3572, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Card, David & Krueger, Alan B, 1992. "Does School Quality Matter? Returns to Education and the Characteristics of Public Schools in the United States," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(1), pages 1-40, February.
  17. David Card, 1993. "Using Geographic Variation in College Proximity to Estimate the Return to Schooling," NBER Working Papers 4483, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Joshua D. Angrist & Guido W. Imbens, 1995. "Average Causal Response with Variable Treatment Intensity," NBER Technical Working Papers 0127, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Goldin, Claudia, 1998. "America's Graduation from High School: The Evolution and Spread of Secondary Schooling in the Twentieth Century," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 58(02), pages 345-374, June.
  20. Gary Chamberlain & Guido W. Imbens, 1996. "Hierarchical Bayes Models with Many Instrumental Variables," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1781, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
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  22. Joshua D. Angrist & Alan B. Krueger, 1995. "Split Sample Instrumental Variables," NBER Technical Working Papers 0150, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  23. William Brock & Steven N. Durlauf, 2000. "Interactions-Based Models," NBER Technical Working Papers 0258, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  25. Ronald G. Ehrenberg & Alan J. Marcus, 1982. "Minimum Wages and Teenagers' Enrollment-Employment Outcomes: A Multinomial Logit Model," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 17(1), pages 39-58.
  26. Mark Bils & Peter J. Klenow, 1998. "Does Schooling Cause Growth or the Other Way Around?," NBER Working Papers 6393, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  27. Gary S. Becker, 1994. "Human Capital: A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis with Special Reference to Education (3rd Edition)," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number beck94-1, July.
  28. Lang, Kevin & Kropp, David, 1986. "Human Capital versus Sorting: The Effects of Compulsory Attendance Laws," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 101(3), pages 609-24, August.
  29. Douglas Staiger & James H. Stock, 1997. "Instrumental Variables Regression with Weak Instruments," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(3), pages 557-586, May.
  30. Angrist, Joshua D & Krueger, Alan B, 1995. "Split-Sample Instrumental Variables Estimates of the Return to Schooling," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 13(2), pages 225-35, April.
  31. Jin Huem Park, 1994. "Estimation of Sheepskin Effects and Returns to Schooling Using he Old and the New CPS Measures of Educational Attainment," Working Papers 717, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
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