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Working Papers

November 2015, No. 15-15

On the Distribution of College Dropouts: Wealth and Uninsurable Idiosyncratic Risk

Ali K. Ozdagli and Nicholas Trachter

We present a dynamic model of the decision to pursue a college degree in which students face uncertainty about their future income stream after graduation due to unobserved heterogeneity in their innate scholastic ability. After matriculating and taking some exams, students re-evaluate their expectations about succeeding in college and may decide to drop out and start working. The model shows that, in accordance with the data, poorer students are less likely to graduate and are likely to drop out sooner than wealthier students. Our model generates these results without introducing explicit credit constraints.

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