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

  • Hendricks, Lutz
  • Schoellman, Todd

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.

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Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 12798.

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Date of creation: 16 Jan 2009
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:12798
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  1. Flavio Cunha & James J. Heckman & Salvador Navarro, 2005. "Separating Uncertainty from Heterogeneity in Life Cycle Earnings," NBER Working Papers 11024, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. 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.
  3. David Card & Thomas Lemieux, 2000. "Can Falling Supply Explain the Rising Return to College for Younger Men? A Cohort-Based Analysis," NBER Working Papers 7655, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. 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.
  5. 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, August.
  6. 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, CIBC Centre for Human Capital and Productivity Working Papers 20118, University of Western Ontario, CIBC Centre for Human Capital and Productivity.
  7. Eric Hanushek & Ludger Woessmann, 2008. "The Role of Cognitive Skills in Economic Development," Discussion Papers 07-034, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
  8. Diego Restuccia & Guillaume Vandenbroucke, 2010. "The Evolution of Education: A Macroeconomic Analysis," Working Papers tecipa-388, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
  9. Fatih Guvenen, 2004. "Learning your Earning: Are Labor Income Shocks Really That Persistent?," 2004 Meeting Papers 177, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  10. 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.
  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. Jacob A. Mincer, 1974. "Schooling, Experience, and Earnings," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number minc74-1, August.
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