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Educational Choices, Subjective Expectations, and Credit Constraints

  • Orazio Attanasio
  • Katja Kaufmann

In this paper we analyze the link between people's "subjective" expectations of returns to schooling and their decision to invest into schooling. We use data from a household survey on Mexican junior and senior high school graduates that elicits their own and their parents' beliefs about future earnings for different scenarios of highest schooling degree. These data allow us to derive measures of expected idiosyncratic returns to schooling as well as measures of individual risk perceptions of earnings and unemployment risk. Therefore we can analyze for two important school attendance decisions, high school and college, whether parents' or youths' expectations matter and whether expected returns or risk perceptions are important for these two decisions. We find that both youths' and parents' expectations matter in terms of the high school attendance decision, while for the college attendance decision the youths' expectations appear to be the relevant ones. These results suggest that youths play an important role in the intra-family decision process about human capital investments. While often neglected in the literature, risk perceptions are important predictors for high school attendance decisions. College attendance decisions on the other hand depend on expected returns to college. Making use of our data on subjective expectations, we provide evidence on the existence of credit constraints based on the argument that credit constraints would break the link between expected returns (or risk perceptions) and schooling decisions. Our results point towards an important role of credit constraints in college attendance decisions and thus provide one explanation for the large inequalities that can be found in particular in higher education in Mexico.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 15087.

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Date of creation: Jul 2009
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15087
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  1. David McKenzie & John Gibson & Steven Stillman, 2007. "A land of milk and honey with streets paved with gold: Do emigrants have over-optimistic expectations about incomes abroad?," CReAM Discussion Paper Series 0709, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), Department of Economics, University College London.
  2. Julian R. Betts, 1996. "What Do Students Know about Wages? Evidence from a Survey of Undergraduates," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 31(1), pages 27-56.
  3. Guiso, Luigi & Jappelli, Tullio & Pistaferri, Luigi, 2002. "An Empirical Analysis of Earnings and Employment Risk," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 20(2), pages 241-53, April.
  4. J. Dominitz & C. F. Manski, . "Eliciting student expectations of the returns to schooling," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1049-94, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
  5. Stephen V. Cameron & James J. Heckman, 1998. "Life Cycle Schooling and Dynamic Selection Bias: Models and Evidence for Five Cohorts of American Males," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(2), pages 262-333, April.
  6. Anyck Dauphin & Abdel-Rahmen El Lahga & Bernard Fortin & Guy Lacroix, 2010. "Are Children Decision-Makers Within the Household?," CIRANO Working Papers 2010s-17, CIRANO.
  7. Delavande, Adeline & Giné, Xavier & McKenzie, David, 2011. "Measuring subjective expectations in developing countries: A critical review and new evidence," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(2), pages 151-163, March.
  8. Heckman, James, 2013. "Sample selection bias as a specification error," Applied Econometrics, Publishing House "SINERGIA PRESS", vol. 31(3), pages 129-137.
  9. James J. Heckman & Edward Vytlacil, 2005. "Structural Equations, Treatment Effects and Econometric Policy Evaluation," NBER Technical Working Papers 0306, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. 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.
  11. Charles F. Manski, 2004. "Measuring Expectations," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 72(5), pages 1329-1376, 09.
  12. Pedro Carneiro & James J. Heckman, 2002. "The Evidence on Credit Constraints in Post-Secondary Schooling," NBER Working Papers 9055, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Belzil, Christian & Hansen, Jörgen, 2002. "Earnings Dispersion, Risk Aversion and Education," IZA Discussion Papers 513, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  14. Stephen V. Cameron & James J. Heckman, 2001. "The Dynamics of Educational Attainment for Black, Hispanic, and White Males," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(3), pages 455-499, June.
  15. Katja Maria Kaufmann, 2014. "Understanding the income gradient in college attendance in Mexico: The role of heterogeneity in expected returns," Quantitative Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 5(3), pages 583-630, November.
  16. Mario Padula & Luigi Pistaferri, 2001. "Education, Employment and Wage Risk," CSEF Working Papers 67, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy.
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