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Education, growth and income inequality

  • Coen Teuling
  • Thijs van Rens

Estimates of the e¤ect of education on GDP (the social return to education)have been hard to reconcile with micro evidence on the private return. We present a simple explanation that combines two ideas: imperfect substitution between worker types and endogenous skill biased technological progress. When types of workers are imperfect substitutes, the supply of human capital is negatively related to its return, and a higher education level compresses wage di¤erentials. We use cross-country panel data on income inequality to estimate the private return and GDP data to estimate the social return. The results show that the private return falls by 2 percentage points when the average education level increases by a year, which is consistent with Katz and Murphy's [1992] estimate of the elasticity of substitution between worker types. We find no evidence for dynamics in the private return, and certainly not for a reversal of the negative e¤ect as described in Acemoglu [2002]. The short run social return equals the private return.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra in its series Economics Working Papers with number 942.

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Date of creation: Jan 2001
Date of revision: Jul 2006
Handle: RePEc:upf:upfgen:942
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.econ.upf.edu/

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