College education offers a hefty 8.8% pay premium for each marginal increase in the number of years of intellectual attainment.

Fiona Sydney

2018-04-29 13:44:00 Sun ET

College education offers a hefty 8.8% pay premium for each marginal increase in the number of years of intellectual attainment in contrast to the 5.6%-6% long-run average U.S. equity premium.

World Bank economists George Psacharopoulos and Harry Patrinos investigate 1,120 studies across 139 countries to derive an average annual rate of return on each marginal increase in the basic level of educational attainment. This 8.8% pay premium far exceeds the U.S. stock market return about 5.6%-6% per annum over the past 5 decades. The pay premium excludes social gains such as positive social interactions and low mortality rates in close association with better education. Also, the pay premium is higher for girls and college graduates (in direct comparison to postgraduates). This premium is higher in low-income countries primarily as these countries recruit a smaller share of international citizens with higher education.

In accordance with the law of lower marginal value, this pay premium dwindles for each extra year of educational attainment. Psacharopoulos and Patrinos posit a current race between education and technology. This race suggests that high-tech advances accelerate to favor high-skill workers to the detriment of low-skill workers. The normative implication for public policy is that the government should subsidize college education or even graduate school attendance. This subsidization serves as a worthy socioeconomic investment in human capital.

 


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