Working Papers



March 2013, No. 13-02

The Supply of College-Educated Workers: The Roles of College Premia, College Costs, and Risk

Kartik B. Athreya and Janice Eberly

Despite a large measured college premium, roughly one-third of all high-school graduates currently do not enroll in any form of college. Moreover, while recent increases in the premium have been accompanied by increases in enrollment, college attainment has remained flat. Our paper studies the roles played by college premia, college costs, and risk, ceteris paribus, for college enrollment and attainment in a simple quantitative model of risky college investment. Our results suggest that most U.S. high-school completers are currently inframarginal with respect to the college premium. We find, however, that the levels of current premia, costs, and uninsurable risks all matter for this. Our results imply that, barring improvements in collegiate preparedness and attrition rates, high and persistent college premia, with high attendant levels of earnings inequality, may accompany the shift in demand towards skilled labor, which recent work (e.g., Autor, Levy, and Murnane (2003)) suggests is under way.

Our Research Focus: Consumer Finance, Labor Markets

Topics: Labor Markets
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