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Estimating the Return to Schooling: Progress on Some Persistent Econometric Problems

  • David Card

This paper reviews a set of recent studies that have attempted to measure the causal effect of education on labor market earnings by using institutional features of the supply side of the education system as exogenous determinants of schooling outcomes. A simple theoretical model that highlights the role of comparative advantage in the optimal schooling decision is presented and used to motivate an extended discussion of econometric issues, including the properties of ordinary least squares and instrumental variables estimators. A review of studies that have used compulsory schooling laws, differences in the accessibility of schools, and similar features as instrumental variables for completed education reveals that the resulting estimates of the return to schooling are typically as big or bigger than the corresponding ordinary least squares estimates. One interpretation of this finding is that marginal returns to education among the low-education subgroups typically affected by supply-side innovations tend to relatively high, reflecting their high marginal costs of schooling, rather than low ability that limits their return to education.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 7769.

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Date of creation: Jun 2000
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Publication status: published as Card, David. "Estimating The Return To Schooling: Progress On Some Persistent Econometric Problems," Econometrica, 2001, v69(5,Sep), 1127-1160.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7769
Note: CH LS
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  13. Joshua Angrist & Alan Krueger, 1990. "Does Compulsory School Attendance Affect Schooling and Earnings?," Working Papers 653, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
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  15. Ashenfelter, O. & Harmon, C. & Oosterbeek, H., 1999. "A Review of Estimates of the Schooling/ Earnings Relationship, with tests for Publication Bias," Papers 99/20, College Dublin, Department of Political Economy-.
  16. Thomas J. Kane & Cecilia E. Rouse, 1993. "Labor Market Returns to Two- and Four-Year Colleges: Is a Credit a Credit and Do Degrees Matter?," NBER Working Papers 4268, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Callan, Tim & Harmon, Colm, 1999. "The economic return to schooling in Ireland," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(4), pages 543-550, November.
  18. Angrist, Joshua D & Newey, Whitney K, 1991. "Over-Identification Tests in Earnings Functions with Fixed Effects," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 9(3), pages 317-23, July.
  19. John Bound & David A. Jaeger, 1996. "On the Validity of Season of Birth as an Instrument in Wage Equations: A Comment on Angrist & Krueger's "Does Compulsory School Attendance Affect Scho," NBER Working Papers 5835, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. J.D. Angrist & Guido W. Imbens & D.B. Rubin, 1993. "Identification of Causal Effects Using Instrumental Variables," NBER Technical Working Papers 0136, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  21. Henry S. Farber & Jeffrey R. Kling & Alan Krueger, 1999. "Interpreting Instrumental Variables Estimates of the Returns to Schooling," Working Papers 794, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  22. Joshua D. Angrist & Kathryn Graddy & Guido W. Imbens, 1995. "Non-Parametric Demand Analysis with an Application to the Demand for Fish," NBER Technical Working Papers 0178, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  23. Stephen Cameron & Christopher Taber, 2000. "Borrowing Constraints and the Returns to Schooling," NBER Working Papers 7761, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  24. Katz, Lawrence F. & Autor, David H., 1999. "Changes in the wage structure and earnings inequality," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 26, pages 1463-1555 Elsevier.
  25. Uusitalo, R. & Conneely, K., 1998. "Estimating Heterogeneous Treatment Effects in the Becker Schooling Model," University of Helsinki, Department of Economics 435, Department of Economics.
  26. Ichino, A. & Winter-Ebmer, R., 1998. "The Long-Run Education Cost of World War II. Example of Local Average Treatment Effect Estimation," Economics Working Papers eco98/10, European University Institute.
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  28. Lang, Kevin, 1993. "Ability Bias, Discount Rate Bias and the Return to Education," MPRA Paper 24651, University Library of Munich, Germany.
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  30. Harmon, Colm & Walker, Ian, 1995. "Estimates of the Economic Return to Schooling for the United Kingdom," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(5), pages 1278-86, December.
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  32. Maluccio, John A., 1998. "Endogeneity of schooling in the wage function," FCND discussion papers 54, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  33. Ichino, Andrea & Winter-Ebmer, Rudolf, 1998. "The Long-Run Educational Cost of World War II: An Example of Local Average Treatment Effect Estimation," CEPR Discussion Papers 1895, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  34. Card, David, 1999. "The causal effect of education on earnings," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 30, pages 1801-1863 Elsevier.
  35. Brunello, Giorgio & Miniaci, Raffaele, 1999. "The economic returns to schooling for Italian men. An evaluation based on instrumental variables1," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(4), pages 509-519, November.
  36. Garen, John, 1984. "The Returns to Schooling: A Selectivity Bias Approach with a Continuous Choice Variable," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 52(5), pages 1199-1218, September.
  37. Thomas J. Kane & Cecilia Elena Rouse & Douglas Staiger, 1999. "Estimating Returns to Schooling When Schooling is Misreported," NBER Working Papers 7235, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  38. Willis, Robert J & Rosen, Sherwin, 1979. "Education and Self-Selection," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages S7-36, October.
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