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12:30 - 14:00 12 May 2014

The return to college: selection bias and dropout risk


IFS Seminar Room | Institute for Fiscal Studies (link Map)
7 Ridgmount Street | London | WC1E 7AE | United Kingdom

Open to: Academic | Student
Ticketing: Open

Speaker information

Oksana Leukhina, University of Washington

This paper estimates the e?ect of graduating from college on lifetime earnings. Motivated by the fact that nearly half of all college students fail to earn a bachelor’s degree, we study a model of risky college completion. The central idea is that students drop out of college mainly because they fail to complete the requirements for earning a degree. This introduces two levels of ability selection that reinforce each other. (i) In college, low ability students typically do not succeed academically and drop out. (ii) At the college entry stage, their poor graduation prospects deter low ability students from even attempting college. Taken together, the two levels of selection generate a large ability gap between college graduates and high school graduates. We calibrate the model to data for men born around 1960 and ?nd that ability selection accounts for nearly half of the college lifetime earnings premium.


Institute for Fiscal Studies
020 7291 4800


Seminar paper