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What drives social returns to education? A meta-analysis


  • Cui, Ying
  • Martins, Pedro S.


Education can generate important externalities that contribute towards economic growth and convergence. In this paper, we study the drivers of such externalities by conducting the first meta-analysis of the social returns to education literature. We analyse over 1,000 estimates from 31 articles published since 1993 that cover 15 countries. Our results indicate that: 1) spillovers slow down with economic development; 2) tertiary schooling and schooling dispersion increase spillovers; 3) spillovers are smaller under fixed-effects and IV estimators but larger when measured at the firm level; and 4) there is publication bias (but not citation bias).

Suggested Citation

  • Cui, Ying & Martins, Pedro S., 2020. "What drives social returns to education? A meta-analysis," GLO Discussion Paper Series 706, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:glodps:706

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    returns to education; education externalities;

    JEL classification:

    • I26 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Returns to Education
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy
    • 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
    • C36 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Multiple or Simultaneous Equation Models; Multiple Variables - - - Instrumental Variables (IV) Estimation


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