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Quantile Treatment Effects of College Quality on Earnings: Evidence from Administrative Data in Texas

  • Rodney J. Andrews
  • Jing Li
  • Michael F. Lovenheim

This paper uses administrative data on schooling and earnings from Texas to estimate the effect of college quality on the distribution of earnings. We proxy college quality using the college sector from which students graduate and focus on identifying how graduating from UT-Austin, Texas A\&M or a community college affects the distribution of earnings relative to graduating from a non-flagship university in Texas. Our methodological approach uses the rich set of observable student academic ability and background characteristics in the data to adjust the earnings distributions across college sectors for the fact that college sector quality is correlated with factors that also affect earnings. Although our mean earnings estimates are similar to previous work in this area, we find evidence of substantial heterogeneity in the returns to college quality. At UT-Austin, the returns increase across the earnings distribution, while at Texas A\&M they tend to decline with one's place in the distribution. For community college graduates, the returns relative to non-flagship four-year graduates are negative across most of the distribution of earnings, but they approach zero and become positive for higher earners. Our data also allow us to estimate effects separately by race and ethnicity, and we find that historically under-represented minorities experience the highest returns in the upper tails of the earnings distribution, particularly among UT-Austin and community college graduates. While we focus on graduates, we also show our estimates are robust to examining college attendees as well as to many other changes in the sample and to the estimation strategy. Overall, these estimates provide the first direct evidence of the extent of heterogeneity in the effect of college quality on subsequent earnings, and our estimates point to the need to consider such heterogeneity in human capital models that incorporate college quality.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w18068.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18068.

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Date of creation: May 2012
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18068
Note: ED LS
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  1. Marianne P. Bitler & Jonah B. Gelbach & Hilary W. Hoynes, 2006. "What Mean Impacts Miss: Distributional Effects of Welfare Reform Experiments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(4), pages 988-1012, September.
  2. Christopher Avery & Caroline M. Hoxby, 2003. "Do and Should Financial Aid Packages Affect Students' College Choices?," NBER Working Papers 9482, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Arcidiacono, Peter, 2004. "Ability sorting and the returns to college major," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 121(1-2), pages 343-375.
  4. Fortin, Nicole & Lemieux, Thomas & Firpo, Sergio, 2011. "Decomposition Methods in Economics," Handbook of Labor Economics, Elsevier.
  5. Lockwood Reynolds, C., 2012. "Where to attend? Estimating the effects of beginning college at a two-year institution," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(4), pages 345-362.
  6. Carlos A. Flores & Oscar A. Mitnik, 2009. "Evaluating Nonexperimental Estimators for Multiple Treatments: Evidence from Experimental Data," Working Papers 2010-9, University of Miami, Department of Economics.
  7. Michael F. Lovenheim & C. Lockwood Reynolds, 2013. "The Effect of Housing Wealth on College Choice: Evidence from the Housing Boom," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 48(1), pages 1-35.
  8. Joshua Angrist & Victor Chernozhukov & Ivan Fernandez-Val, 2004. "Quantile Regression under Misspecification, with an Application to the U.S. Wage Structure," NBER Working Papers 10428, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Jesse Rothstein & Albert Yoon, 2006. "Mismatch in Law School," Working Papers 79, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Center for Economic Policy Studies..
  10. Dominic J. Brewer & Eric Eide & Ronald G. Ehrenberg, 1996. "Does It Pay To Attend An Elite Private College? Cross Cohort Evidence on the Effects of College Quality on Earnings," NBER Working Papers 5613, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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