return to schooling


In this paper we set out a simple model of optimal schooling investments that
emphasizes the interaction between schooling choices and income determination; and
estimate it using a fresh sample of data on over 700 identical twins. According to the model,
equally able individuals from the same family should attain the same observed schooling
levels, apart from random errors of optimization or measurement. A variety of direct and
indirect tests provides no evidence against this hypothesis.
We estimate an average return to schooling of 10% for genetically identical
individuals, but estimated returns are slightly higher for less able individuals. Unlike the
results in Ashenfelter and Krueger (1994), which were based on a much smaller sample, we
estimate that schooling is positively correlated with ability level, so that simple cross-section
estimates are slightly upward biased. Taken together these empirical results imply that
more able individuals attain more schooling because they face lower marginal costs of
schooling, not because they obtain higher marginal beneļ¬ts. The results stand in sharp
contrast to recent claims that genetic factors predetermine education and income, and that
such differences are not amenable to alteration by public or private choices.

Year of Publication
Date Published
Publication Language
Citation Key
The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Vol. 113, No. 1, February, 1998
Ashenfelter, O., & Rouse, C. (1996). Income, Schooling, and Ability: Evidence from a New Sample of Twins. Retrieved from (Original work published 07/1996AD)
Working Papers