Becker Friedman Institute
for Research in Economics
The University of Chicago

Research. Insights. Impact. Advancing the Legacy of Chicago Economics.


The Non-Market Benefits of Education and Ability

James J. Heckman, John Eric Humphries, Gregory Veramendi

This paper analyzes the non-market benefits of education and ability. Using a dynamic model of educational choice we estimate returns to education that account for selection bias and sorting on gains. We investigate a range of non-market outcomes including incarceration, mental health, voter participation, trust, and participation in welfare. We find distinct patterns of returns that depend on the levels of schooling and ability. Unlike the monetary benefits of education, the benefits to education for many non-market outcomes are greater for low-ability persons.

Father Absence and the Educational Gender Gap

Shelly Lundberg

The educational attainment of young women now exceeds that of young men in most of the developed world, and women account for about 60% of new four-year college graduates in the United States. Several studies have suggested that the increase in single-parent households may be contributing to the growing gender gap in education, as boys are more vulnerable to the negative effects of father absence and economic disadvantage than girls.

Educational Investment Responses to Economic Opportunity: Evidence from Indian Road Construction

Anjali Adukia, Sam Asher, Paul Novosad

The rural poor in developing countries, once economically isolated, are increasingly being connected to regional markets. Whether these new connections crowd out or encourage educational investment is a central question. We examine the impacts on educational choices of 115,000 new roads built under India’s flagship road construction program. We find that children stay in school longer and perform better on standardized exams.

Zika Virus Prevalence, Correlates, and Preventive Behaviors: New Evidence from Survey Data

Climent Quintana-Domeque, José Raimundo Carvalho, Victor Hugo de Oliveira

Brazilian health authorities have recommended that pregnant women take meticulous precaution to avoid mosquito bites, and use contraceptive methods to postpone/delay pregnancies. In this article, we present new estimates on the Zika virus prevalence, its correlates and preventive behaviors in the Northeast of Brazil, where the outbreak initiated, using survey data collected between March 30th and June 3rd of 2016. The target population are women aged 15-49 in the capital cities of the nine states of the Northeast region of Brazil.

Cool to be Smart or Smart to be Cool? Understanding Peer Pressure in Education

Leonardo Bursztyn, Georgy Egorov, and Robert Jensen

Concerns about social image may negatively affect schooling behavior. We identify two potentially important peer cultures: one that stigmatizes effort (thus, where it is “smart to be cool”) and one
that rewards ability (where it is “cool to be smart”). We build a model showing that either may lower the takeup of educational activities when takeup and performance are potentially observable

College Admission and High School Integration

Fernanda Estevan, Thomas Gall, Patrick Legros, Andrew Newman

We investigate whether a policy that bases college admission on relative performance can modify the degree of racial or ethnic segregation in high schools by inducing students to relocate to schools with weaker competition. Theoretically, such school arbitrage will neutralize the admissions policy at the college level. It will result in partial desegregation of the high schools if flows are sufficiently unbiased.

Gender Gaps in the Effects of Childhood Family Environment: Do They Persist into Adulthood?

Anne Ardila Brenøe, Shelly Lundberg

We examine the differential effects of family disadvantage on the education and adult labor market outcomes of men and women using high-quality administrative data on the entire population of Denmark born between 1966 and 1995. We link parental education and family structure during childhood to male-female and brother-sister differences in teenage outcomes, educational attainment, and adult earnings and employment. Our results are consistent with U.S. findings that boys benefit more from an advantageous family environment than do girls in terms of the behavior and grade-school outcomes.

Is the focus on food deserts fruitless? Retail access and food purchases across the socioeconomic spectrum

Molly Schnell, Jessie Handbury, Ilya Rahkovsky

Using novel data describing the healthfulness of household food purchases and the retail landscapes consumers face, we measure the role of access in explaining why wealthier and more educated households purchase healthier foods. We find that spatial differences in access, though significant, are small relative to spatial differences in the nutritional content of sales. Socioeconomic disparities in nutritional consumption exist even among households with equivalent access, and the healthfulness of household consumption responds minimally to improvements in local retain environments.

The Scandinavian Fantasy: The Sources of Intergenerational Mobility in Denmark and the U.S.

Rasmus Landersø, James J. Heckman

This paper examines the sources of differences in social mobility between the U.S. and Denmark. Measured by income mobility, Denmark is a more mobile society, but not when measured by educational mobility. There are pronounced nonlinearities in income and educational mobility in both countries. Greater Danish income mobility is largely a consequence of redistributional tax, transfer, and wage compression policies.

Returns to Education: The Causal Effects of Education on Earnings, Health and Smoking

James J. Heckman, John Eric Humphries, Gregory Veramendi

This paper estimates returns to education using a dynamic model of educational choice that synthesizes approaches in the structural dynamic discrete choice literature with approaches used in the reduced form treatment effect literature. It is an empirically robust middle ground between the two approaches which estimates economically interpretable and policy-relevant dynamic treatment effects that account for heterogeneity in cognitive and non-cognitive skills and the continuation values of educational choices. Graduating college is not a wise choice for all.