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Educational opportunity and the college premium


  • Igal Hendel
  • Joel Shapiro
  • Paul Willen


Since World War II, the United States government has made improved access to higher education a priority. This e¤ort has substantially increased the number of people who complete college. We show that by reducing the effective interest rate on borrowing for education, such policies can actually increase the gap in wages between those with a college education and those without. The mechanism that drives our results is the ‘signaling’ role of education first explored by Spence (1973). We argue that financial constraints on education reduce the value of education as a signal. We solve for the reduced form relationship between the interest rate and the wage premium in the steady state of a dynamic asymmetric information model. In addition, we discuss evidence of decreases in borrowing costs for education financing in the U.S.

Suggested Citation

  • Igal Hendel & Joel Shapiro & Paul Willen, 2001. "Educational opportunity and the college premium," Economics Working Papers 560, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  • Handle: RePEc:upf:upfgen:560

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    Cited by:

    1. Bergh, Andreas & Fink, Günther, 2005. "Escaping Mass Education – Why Harvard Pays," Working Papers 2005:2, Lund University, Department of Economics.

    More about this item


    College loans; education signalling; college wage premium;

    JEL classification:

    • I22 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Educational Finance; Financial Aid
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design

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