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Student Abilities During the Expansion of U.S. Education, 1950-2000

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  • Hendricks, Lutz
  • Schoellman, Todd

Abstract

Since 1950, U.S. educational attainment has increased substantially. While the median student in 1950 dropped out of high school, the median student today attends some college. In an environment with ability heterogeneity and positive sorting between ability and school tenure, the expansion of education implies a decrease in the average ability of students conditional on school attainment. Using a calibrated model of school choice under ability heterogeneity, we investigate the quantitative impact of rising attainment on ability and measured wages. Our findings suggest that the decline in average ability depressed wages conditional on schooling by 31-58 percentage points. We also find that the entire rise in the college wage premium since 1950 can be attributed to the rising mean ability of college graduates relative to high school graduates.

Suggested Citation

  • Hendricks, Lutz & Schoellman, Todd, 2009. "Student Abilities During the Expansion of U.S. Education, 1950-2000," MPRA Paper 12798, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:12798
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Diego Restuccia & Guillaume Vandenbroucke, 2013. "The Evolution Of Education: A Macroeconomic Analysis," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 54, pages 915-936, August.
    2. David Card & Thomas Lemieux, 2001. "Can Falling Supply Explain the Rising Return to College for Younger Men? A Cohort-Based Analysis," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(2), pages 705-746.
    3. Flavio Cunha & James Heckman & Salvador Navarro, 2005. "Separating uncertainty from heterogeneity in life cycle earnings," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 57(2), pages 191-261, April.
    4. Salvador Navarro, 2011. "Using Observed Choices to Infer Agent's Information: Reconsidering the Importance of Borrowing Constraints, Uncertainty and Preferences in College Attendance," University of Western Ontario, Centre for Human Capital and Productivity (CHCP) Working Papers 20118, University of Western Ontario, Centre for Human Capital and Productivity (CHCP).
    5. Jacob A. Mincer, 1974. "Introduction to "Schooling, Experience, and Earnings"," NBER Chapters,in: Schooling, Experience, and Earnings, pages 1-4 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. 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.
    7. Eric A. Hanushek & Ludger Woessmann, 2008. "The Role of Cognitive Skills in Economic Development," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 46(3), pages 607-668, September.
    8. Jacob A. Mincer, 1974. "Schooling, Experience, and Earnings," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number minc74-1, July.
    9. Fatih Guvenen, 2007. "Learning Your Earning: Are Labor Income Shocks Really Very Persistent?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(3), pages 687-712, June.
    10. Geweke, John & Keane, Michael, 2000. "An empirical analysis of earnings dynamics among men in the PSID: 1968-1989," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 96(2), pages 293-356, June.
    11. Peter Rangazas, 2002. "The Quantity and Quality of Schooling and U.S. Labor Productivity Growth (1870-2000)," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 5(4), pages 932-964, October.
    12. Paul Taubman & Terence Wales, 1972. "Mental Ability and Higher Educational Attainment in the 20th Century," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number taub72-1, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Elisa Keller, 2013. "Occupational Complexity, Experience, and the Gender Wage Gap," 2013 Meeting Papers 348, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    2. Kartik B. Athreya & Janice Eberly, 2013. "The supply of college-educated workers: the roles of college premia, college costs, and risk," Working Paper 13-02, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
    3. Felicia Ionescu, 2011. "Risky Human Capital and Alternative Bankruptcy Regimes for Student Loans," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 5(2), pages 153-206.
    4. Julie L. Hotchkiss & Menbere Shiferaw, 2011. "Decomposing the education wage gap: everything but the kitchen sink," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue July, pages 243-272.
    5. Hui He, 2011. "Why Have Girls Gone to College? A Quantitative Examination of the Female College Enrollment Rate in the United States: 1955-1980," Annals of Economics and Finance, Society for AEF, vol. 12(1), pages 41-64, May.
    6. Oksana Leukhina & Lutz A. Hendricks, 2011. "The Return to College: Selection Bias and Dropout Risk," 2011 Meeting Papers 311, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    7. Michael Waugh & David Lagakos, 2009. "Specialization, Economic Development and Aggregate Productivity Differences," 2009 Meeting Papers 1248, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    8. Michelle Rendall & Andrew Rendall, 2013. "Math Matters: Student Ability, College Majors, and Wage Inequality," 2013 Meeting Papers 1196, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    9. Ionescu, Felicia & Simpson, Nicole, 2010. "Credit Scores and College Investment," Working Papers 2010-07, Department of Economics, Colgate University.
    10. Keller, Elisa, 2014. "The slowdown in American educational attainment," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 252-270.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Education; ability; skill premium;

    JEL classification:

    • I2 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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