Wednesday, September 30, 2009

More To Schooling Than Higher Earnings

Schooling improves a students' decision making ability, and makes students more goal-oriented and less likely to engage in risky behavior, among other positive outcomes, according to a recent NBER Working paper by Philip Oreopoulos and Kjell Salvanes.

It would be interesting to compare students who score higher on standardized tests, such as those required by No Child Left Behind legislation, and students who do not do well on the standardized test along other measurable attributes. If the test scores do not correlate with life skills, maybe we should also measure a student's school achievement by how the student performs on important life skills, such as goal-oriented, patience, decision making, etc and not just math and reading skills. Maybe even instead of subject matter skill levels.

NBER Working Paper No. 15339, "How large are returns to schooling? Hint: Money isn't everything" by Philip Oreopoulos, Kjell G. Salvanes, Issued in September 2009. Unfortunately, paper is gated and requires paid subscription.

From the abstract:
This paper explores the many avenues by which schooling affects lifetime well-being. Experiences and skills acquired in school reverberate throughout life, not just through higher earnings. Schooling also affects the degree one enjoys work and the 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 non-pecuniary 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.

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