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Is formal lifelong learning a profitable investment for all of life ? How age, education level, and flexibility of provision affect rates of return to adult education in Colombia

  • Sohnesen, Thomas Pave
  • Blom, Andreas

Lifelong learning is increasingly being recognized as a primary factor for knowledge diffusion and productivity growth. However, little economic evidence exists on the economic value of lifelong learning for the individual, especially in developing countries. This paper contributes to remedy this shortfall. It investigates one aspect of lifelong learning: returns to formal education across ages. In the absence of long-term longitudinal data, the paper estimates rates of return for simulated re-entry into the education system. The estimations use the method of internal rate of return and are based on observed education-age-earnings profiles from the Colombian national household survey. It finds that rates of return to all levels of education are only slightly smaller for 35 year olds than for young people, thus confirming the profitability of investment in adult education. Tertiary education continues to attract a positive return until late in life, 45-50 years, whereas the economic value of re-entering primary and secondary education is positive up till the age of 40-45. So, formal lifelong learning seems to remain a profitable investment for at least half of life. But lack of part-time work, high tuition fees, and prolonged study time reduce the return. The findings suggest that adult formal education initiatives should focus on the 20 to 40 year olds and be designed flexibly to allow learners to work part time.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 3800.

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Date of creation: 01 Dec 2005
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:3800
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  1. Sveinbjörn Blöndal & Simon Field & Nathalie Girouard, 2002. "Investment in Human Capital Through Post-Compulsory Education and Training: Selected Efficiency and Equity Aspects," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 333, OECD Publishing.
  2. David Card & Thomas Lemieux, 2000. "Can Falling Supply Explain the Rising Return to College for Younger Men? A Cohort-Based Analysis," NBER Working Papers 7655, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Psacharopoulos, George & Patrinos, Harry Anthony, 2002. "Returns to investment in education : a further update," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2881, The World Bank.
  4. James J. Heckman & Lance J. Lochner & Petra E. Todd, 2003. "Fifty Years of Mincer Earnings Regressions," NBER Working Papers 9732, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Sanchez-Paramo, Carolina & Schady, Norbert, 2003. "Off and running? Technology, trade and the rising demand for skilled workers in Latin America," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3015, The World Bank.
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