Blankenau Working Papers

"Admission standards, student effort, and the creation of skilled jobs," with Yuan Gao

Abstract: We consider the implications of expanding enrollment through lower standards in a model with human capital externalities and a market failure. Workers and firms make uncoordinated investment choices prior to random matching. Investment choices depend on the expected productivity of the counterpart in production. The setting generates a potential human capital externality as a more skilled labor force induces more skilled job openings. Exploiting the externality is complicated by a market failure which may cause some workers to earn a degree but no skill. We show that beyond a threshold, increased enrollment through low standards is poor policy. Policies which increase returns to agents and firms in best matches can improve outcomes.
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“Early childhood education and intergenerational persistence of earnings,” with Xiaoyan Youderian

Abstract: We consider how the timing of government education spending influences the intergenerational persistence of income. We build a life-cycle model where human capital is accumulated in early and late childhood. Both families and the government can increase the human capital of young agents by investing in education at each stage of childhood. Ability in each dynasty follows a stochastic process. Different abilities and resultant spending histories generate a stochastic steady state distribution of income. We calibrate our model to match aggregate statistics in terms of education expenditures, income persistence and inequality. We show that increasing government spending in early childhood education is effective in lowering intergenerational earnings elasticity. An increase in government funding of early childhood education equivalent to 0.8 percent of GDP reduces income persistence by 9.1 percent. We find that this relatively large effect is due to the weakening relationship between family income and education investment. Since this link is already weak in late childhood, allocating more public resources to late childhood education does not improve the intergenerational mobility of economic status. Furthermore, focusing more on late childhood may raise intergenerational persistence by amplifying the gap in human capital developed in early childhood.
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