NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Making College Worth It: A Review of Research on the Returns to Higher Education

Philip Oreopoulos, Uros Petronijevic

NBER Working Paper No. 19053
Issued in May 2013
NBER Program(s):   CH   ED   LS

Recent stories of soaring student debt levels and under-placed college graduates have caused some to question whether a college education is still a sound investment. In this paper, we review the literature on the returns to higher education in an attempt to determine who benefits from college. Despite the tremendous heterogeneity across potential college students, we conclude that the investment appears to payoff for both the average and marginal student. During the past three decades in particular, the earnings premium associated with a college education has risen substantially. Beyond the pecuniary benefits of higher education, we suggest that there also may exist non-pecuniary benefits. Given these findings, it is perhaps surprising that among recent cohorts college completion rates have stagnated. We discuss potential explanations for this trend and conclude by succinctly interpreting the evidence on how to make the most out of college.

download in pdf format
   (207 K)

email paper

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w19053

Published: Philip Oreopoulos & Uros Petronijevic, 2013. "Making College Worth It: A Review of the Returns to Higher Education," The Future of Children, vol 23(1), pages 41-65.

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded these:
Epple, Romano, Sarpça, and Sieg w19298 The U.S. Market for Higher Education: A General Equilibrium Analysis of State and Private Colleges and Public Funding Policies
Rau, Rojas, and Urzúa w19138 Loans for Higher Education: Does the Dream Come True?
Carneiro, Heckman, and Vytlacil w16474 Estimating Marginal Returns to Education
Brown, Fang, and Gomes w18300 Risk and Returns to Education
Beaudry, Green, and Sand w18901 The Great Reversal in the Demand for Skill and Cognitive Tasks
 
Publications
Activities
Meetings
NBER Videos
Themes
Data
People
About

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email: info@nber.org

Contact Us