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Schooling Externalities, Technology and Productivity: Theory and Evidence from U.S. States

  • Susana Iranzo
  • Giovanni Peri

The recent literature on local schooling externalities in the U.S. is rather mixed: positive external effects of average education levels are hardly to be found but, in contrast, positive externalities from the share of college graduates can often be identified. This paper proposes a simple model to reconcile this mixed evidence. The key idea is that advanced technologies are complementary to highly educated workers, as opposed to traditional technologies which are complementary to less educated workers. Our calibrated model predicts that workers with high school education or less are employed in the traditional sector, while more educated workers are employed in the advanced sector. As the advanced sector is associated with the production of differentiated goods and services this generates a positive pecuniary externality (positive TFP effect) of college educated workers. By contrast, as no externalities are associated with the traditional technology, high school education only increases private returns. The model predictions are tested using data on U.S. states. We use compulsory attendance and child labor laws, push-driven immigration of highly educated workers and the location of Land Grant colleges as instruments for schooling attainments of workers in different states. The empirical estimates confirm that an increase in college education, but not an increase in high school education, had significant positive production externalities in U.S. states during the period 1960-2000.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12440.

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Date of creation: Aug 2006
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Susana Iranzo & Giovanni Peri, 2009. "Schooling Externalities, Technology, and Productivity: Theory and Evidence from U.S. States," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 91(2), pages 420-431, November.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12440
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  1. 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.
  2. David Card, 1997. "Immigrant Inflows, Native Outflows, and the Local Labor Market Impacts of Higher Immigration," NBER Working Papers 5927, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  15. Antonio Ciccone & Giovanni Peri, 2005. "Long-Run Substitutability Between More and Less Educated Workers: Evidence from U.S. States, 1950-1990," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 87(4), pages 652-663, November.
  16. Yeaple, Stephen Ross, 2005. "A simple model of firm heterogeneity, international trade, and wages," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(1), pages 1-20, January.
  17. Angel de la Fuente & Rafael Domenech, 2001. "Schooling Data, Technological Diffusion, and the Neoclassical Model," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(2), pages 323-327, May.
  18. Francesco Caselli & Wilbur John Coleman II, 2000. "The World Technology Frontier," NBER Working Papers 7904, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Janet Currie & Enrico Moretti, 2003. "Mother'S Education And The Intergenerational Transmission Of Human Capital: Evidence From College Openings," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(4), pages 1495-1532, November.
  20. Acemoglu, Daron, 1996. "A Microfoundation for Social Increasing Returns in Human Capital Accumulation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 111(3), pages 779-804, August.
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