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The Evolution of the Returns to Human Capital in Canada, 1980-2006

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  • Boudarbat, Brahim
  • Lemieux, Thomas
  • Riddell, Craig

Abstract

This paper examines the evolution of the returns to human capital in Canada over the period 1980-2006. Most of the analysis is based on Census data, and on weekly wage and salary earnings of full-time workers. Our main finding is that the returns to education increased substantially for Canadian men between 1980 and 2000, in contrast to conclusions reached in previous studies. For example, the adjusted wage gap between men with exactly a bachelors’ degree and men with only a high school diploma increased from 34 percent to 43 percent during this period. Most of this rise took place in the early 1980s and late 1990s. Returns to education also rose for Canadian women, but the magnitudes of the increases were more modest. For instance, the adjusted BA-high school wage differential among women increased about 4 percentage points between 1980 and 1985 and remained stable thereafter. Results based on Labour Force Survey data show the upward trend in returns to education has recently been reversed for both men and women. Another important development is that after fifteen years of expansion (1980-1995), the return to work experience measured by the wage gap between younger and older workers declined between 1995 and 2000. Finally, we find little difference between measures based on means and those based on medians of log wages for both genders. Also, the use of broader earnings measures (such as including self-employment earnings, using weekly earnings of all workers, or using annual earnings of full-time workers) does not alter the main conclusions from the analysis based on weekly wage and salary earnings of full-time workers.

Suggested Citation

  • Boudarbat, Brahim & Lemieux, Thomas & Riddell, Craig, 2008. "The Evolution of the Returns to Human Capital in Canada, 1980-2006," Economics working papers craig_riddell-2008-15, Vancouver School of Economics, revised 22 Oct 2008.
  • Handle: RePEc:ubc:bricol:craig_riddell-2008-15
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Jacob Mincer & Solomon Polachek, 1974. "Family Investments in Human Capital: Earnings of Women," NBER Chapters, in: Marriage, Family, Human Capital, and Fertility, pages 76-110, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Kevin M. Murphy & W. Craig Riddell & Paul M. Romer, 1998. "Wages, Skills, and Technology in the United States and Canada," NBER Working Papers 6638, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Picot, Garnett & Morissette, Rene & Kapsalis, Costa, 1999. "The Returns to Education and the Increasing Wage Gap Between Younger and Older Workers," Analytical Studies Branch Research Paper Series 1999131e, Statistics Canada, Analytical Studies Branch.
    4. Richard B. Freeman & Karen Needels, 1993. "Skill Differentials in Canada in an Era of Rising Labor Market Inequality," NBER Chapters, in: Small Differences That Matter: Labor Markets and Income Maintenance in Canada and the United States, pages 45-68, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Emmanuel Saez & Michael R. Veall, 2005. "The Evolution of High Incomes in Northern America: Lessons from Canadian Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(3), pages 831-849, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Charles M. Beach & Ross Finnie & David Gray, 2010. "Long‐Run Inequality And Short‐Run Instability Of Men'S And Women'S Earnings In Canada," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 56(3), pages 572-596, September.
    2. Emanuelle Bourbeau & Pierre Lefebvre & Philip Merrigan, 2011. "Provincial Returns to Education for 21 to 35 year-olds: Results from the 1991-2006 Canadian Analytic Censuses Files," Cahiers de recherche 1106, CIRPEE.
    3. Alexander Murray & Andrew Sharpe, 2011. "Human Capital and Productivity in British Columbia," CSLS Research Reports 2011-10, Centre for the Study of Living Standards.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Human Capital; Wage Differentials; Returns to Education; Canada;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials

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