Free Content Priceless: The Nonpecuniary Benefits of Schooling

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Abstract:

Increasing wealth provides key motivation for students to forgo earnings and struggle through exams. But, as we argue in this paper, schooling generates many experiences and affects many dimensions of skill that, in turn, affect central aspects of individuals' lives. Schooling not only affects income, but also the degree to which one enjoys work, as well as one's likelihood of being unemployed. It leads individuals to make better decisions about health, marriage, and parenting. It also improves patience, making individuals more goal-oriented and less likely to engage in risky behavior. Schooling improves trust and social interaction, and may offer substantial consumption value to some students. We discuss various mechanisms to explain how these relationships may occur independent of wealth effects and present evidence that nonpecuniary returns to schooling are at least as large as pecuniary ones. Ironically, one explanation why some early school leavers miss out on these high returns is that they lack the very same decision-making skills that more schooling would help improve.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1257/089533011798837765

Publication date: December 1, 2011

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  • The Journal of Economic Perspectives (JEP) attempts to fill a gap between the general interest press and most other academic economics journals. The journal aims to publish articles that will serve several goals: to synthesize and integrate lessons learned from active lines of economic research; to provide economic analysis of public policy issues; to encourage cross-fertilization of ideas among the fields of thinking; to offer readers an accessible source for state-of-the-art economic thinking; to suggest directions for future research; to provide insights and readings for classroom use; and to address issues relating to the economics profession.
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