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The Schooling Quality-Earnings Relationship: Using Economic Theory to Interpret Functional Forms Consistent with the Evidence

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  • James Heckman
  • Anne Layne-Farrar
  • Petra Todd

Abstract

This paper investigates the economic and empirical foundations of the evidence relating earnings to schooling quality. We replicate the Card-Krueger model for Census years 1970, 1980 and 1990 and find that it consistently produces a strong relationship between schooling quality and the rate of return to schooling. We test key identifying assumptions used by Card and Krueger and others. Several assumptions are rejected. When they are relaxed, the evidence for a strong effect of schooling quality on earning is greatly weakened. A crucial identifying assumption is the absence of selective migration on the basis of earnings. Nonparametric tests strongly reject this hypothesis. The conventional assumption of linearity of the earnings- schooling relationship widely used in the literature is also rejected. The only surviving evidence of any schooling quality effect is in the return to college education. We also test and reject conventional efficiency unit models of the pricing of labor services. The empirically concordant model of earnings is a model of heterogeneous human capital in which regional shocks affect the prices of less- skilled labor.

Suggested Citation

  • James Heckman & Anne Layne-Farrar & Petra Todd, 1995. "The Schooling Quality-Earnings Relationship: Using Economic Theory to Interpret Functional Forms Consistent with the Evidence," NBER Working Papers 5288, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5288
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    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w5288.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. George E. Johnson & Frank P. Stafford, 1973. "Social Returns to Quantity and Quality of Schooling," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 8(2), pages 139-155.
    2. James Heckman & Anne Layne-Farrar & Petra Todd, 1995. "Does Measured School Quality Really Matter? An Examination of the Earnings-Quality Relationship," NBER Working Papers 5274, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. David Card & Alan B. Krueger, 1992. "School Quality and Black-White Relative Earnings: A Direct Assessment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(1), pages 151-200.
    4. Hungerford, Thomas & Solon, Gary, 1987. "Sheepskin Effects in the Returns to Education," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 69(1), pages 175-177, February.
    5. Hanushek, Eric A, 1986. "The Economics of Schooling: Production and Efficiency in Public Schools," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 24(3), pages 1141-1177, September.
    6. White, Halbert, 1980. "A Heteroskedasticity-Consistent Covariance Matrix Estimator and a Direct Test for Heteroskedasticity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(4), pages 817-838, May.
    7. Yoram Ben-Porath, 1967. "The Production of Human Capital and the Life Cycle of Earnings," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 75, pages 352-352.
    8. Jacob Mincer, 1958. "Investment in Human Capital and Personal Income Distribution," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 66, pages 281-281.
    9. Behrman, Jere R & Birdsall, Nancy, 1983. "The Quality of Schooling: Quantity Alone is Misleading," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(5), pages 928-946, December.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Daniel Münich & Jan Svejnar & Katherine Terrell, 2005. "Returns to Human Capital Under The Communist Wage Grid and During the Transition to a Market Economy," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 87(1), pages 100-123, February.
    2. James Heckman & Anne Layne-Farrar & Petra Todd, 1995. "Does Measured School Quality Really Matter? An Examination of the Earnings-Quality Relationship," NBER Working Papers 5274, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Alan B. Krueger, 2003. "Economic Considerations and Class Size," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 113(485), pages 34-63, February.
    4. Patrick Enu & Edmond Hagan & Eunice Ahouandjinou & Prudence Attah-Obeng, 2014. "Relationship between Education and Wage differentials in Ghana: A Case Study of Accra - a Suburb of greater Accra Region," International Journal of Academic Research in Business and Social Sciences, Human Resource Management Academic Research Society, International Journal of Academic Research in Business and Social Sciences, vol. 4(1), pages 277-294, January.
    5. Kevin Denny & Colm Harmon, 2001. "Testing for sheepskin effects in earnings equations: evidence for five countries," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 8(9), pages 635-637.
    6. David Card & Alan B. Krueger, 1996. "Labor Market Effects of School Quality: Theory and Evidence," Working Papers 736, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
    7. Park, Seonyoung, 2011. "Returning to school for higher returns," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(6), pages 1215-1228.
    8. Trostel, P.A., 2000. "Micro Evidence on Human Capital as the Engine of Growth," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 555, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education

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