NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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College Attainment, Income Inequality, and Economic Security: A Simulation Exercise

Brad Hershbein, Melissa Schettini Kearney, Luke W. Pardue

NBER Working Paper No. 26747
Issued in February 2020
NBER Program(s):Economics of Education, Labor Studies, Public Economics

We conduct an empirical simulation exercise that gauges the plausible impact of increased rates of college attainment on a variety of measures of income inequality and economic insecurity. Using two different methodological approaches—a distributional approach and a causal parameter approach—we find that increased rates of bachelor’s and associate degree attainment would meaningfully increase economic security for lower-income individuals, reduce poverty and near-poverty, and shrink gaps between the 90th and lower percentiles of the earnings distribution. However, increases in college attainment would not significantly reduce inequality at the very top of the distribution.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w26747

 
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