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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. Mincer, Jacob & Polachek, Solomon, 1974. "Family Investment in Human Capital: Earnings of Women," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(2), pages 76-108, Part II, .
    2. Kapsalis, Costa & Morissette, Rene & Picot, Garnett, 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.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. Joshua Angrist & Victor Chernozhukov & Iván Fernández-Val, 2006. "Quantile Regression under Misspecification, with an Application to the U.S. Wage Structure," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 74(2), pages 539-563, March.
    6. Card, David, 2001. "Estimating the Return to Schooling: Progress on Some Persistent Econometric Problems," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(5), pages 1127-1160, September.
    7. J. B. Burbidge & L. Magee & A. Leslie Robb, 2002. "The Education Premium in Canada and the United States," Canadian Public Policy, University of Toronto Press, vol. 28(2), pages 203-217, June.
    8. 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.
    9. 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.
    10. Paul Beaudry & David Green, 1998. "What is Driving US and Canadian Wages: Exogenous Technical Change or Endogenous Choice of Technique?," NBER Working Papers 6853, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. Alexander Murray & Andrew Sharpe, 2011. "Human Capital and Productivity in British Columbia," CSLS Research Reports 2011-10, Centre for the Study of Living Standards.
    3. 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.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Human Capital; Wage Differentials; Returns to Education; Canada;

    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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