IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Unobserved Ability, Comparative Advantage, and the Rising Return to Education in the United States: A Cohort-Based Approach


  • Olivier Deschenes

    (Princeton University)


This paper quantities the extent to which the rise in the measured return to education between I979 and 2000 is reflecting a change in the causal effect of education on labor market eamings. The conceptual issues are formalized in a two-factor model of ability. schooling and eamings that allows heterogeneity in absolute and comparative advantage across the population. ln particular, the framework implies that a rise in the true return to education will increase the degree of convexity of the relationship between eamings and years of education for a fixed cohort of individuals. Permanent differences in the levels of the eamings-schooling relationship across cohorts will arise if the mapping between schooling and ability differs across cohorts. These implications of the two-factor model allow the identification of changes in the causal effect of education over time and across cohorts.

Suggested Citation

  • Olivier Deschenes, 2001. "Unobserved Ability, Comparative Advantage, and the Rising Return to Education in the United States: A Cohort-Based Approach," Working Papers 835, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  • Handle: RePEc:pri:indrel:456

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Thomas Lemieux, 2006. "Postsecondary Education and Increasing Wage Inequality," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(2), pages 195-199, May.
    2. Colm Harmon & Hessel Oosterbeek & Ian Walker, 2000. "The returns to education : a review of evidence, issues and deficiencies in the literature," Open Access publications 10197/670, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
    3. repec:ucn:wpaper:10197/1099 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item


    earnings; education;

    JEL classification:

    • P20 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Systems and Transition Economies - - - General


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:pri:indrel:456. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Bobray Bordelon). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.