A comparative study of returns to education of urban men in Egypt, Iran, and Turkey
This paper presents a comparative study of private returns to schooling of urban men in Egypt, Iran, and Turkey using similar survey data and a uniform methodology. We employ three surveys for each country that span nearly two decades, from the 1980s to 2006, and, to increase the comparability of the estimates across surveys, we focus on urban men 20-54 years old and in full time wage and salary employment. Our aim is to learn how the monetary signals of rewards that guide individual decisions to invest in education are shaped by the institutions of education and labor markets in these countries. Our estimates generally support the stylized facts of the institutions of education and labor markets in Middle Eastern countries. Their labor markets have been described as dominated by the public sector and therefore relatively inï¬‚exible, and their education systems as more focused on secondary and tertiary degrees than teaching practical and productive skills. Returns in all countries are increasing in years of schooling, which is contrary to the Mincer assumption of linear returns but consistent with overemphasis on secondary and tertiary degrees. Low returns to vocational training relative to general upper secondary, which have been observed in many developing countries, are observed in Egypt and Iran, but not Turkey. This pattern of returns across countries seems to correspond to how students are selected into vocational and general upper secondary tracks, which is an important part of the education institutions of these countries, and the fact that Turkeyâ€™s economy is more open than the other two. Greater competitiveness in all three countries over time seems to have increased returns to university education and in few cases to vocational education, but not to general high school.
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