SBR-9905257 This project will study the causes and consequences of the slow-down in educational attainment that occurred for cohorts born after 1950 in the United States. Among those born prior to 1950, each successive 5-year cohort of young men had about a 2.5 percent higher college completion rate than the preceding one. This trend stopped and abruptly reversed with cohorts born after 1950. Even today, the school enrollment rates of 18-21 year old men have not yet resumed to the levels ofthe mid-1960s, when people born in the late 1940s were in school. A similar although less dramatic slowdown has affected the educational attainment of women. Part I of the project will analyze the consequences of the slow-down and reversal in education trends across cohorts. Initial evidence from data over the 1975-95 period suggests that the shift in the supply of college graduates among younger cohorts of men can account for both the rapid rise in the relative returns to college for younger workers over the past decade, and for the overall rise in retums to college for all age groups from the mid-1970s to the mid-199Os. This project will develop and test alternative models of the link between age-group-specific returns to college and the relative supplies of college workers in a given age group, in other age groups, and in the economy as a whole. It will also investigate other potential explanations for the changing age structure of the returns to college, including demand-side explanations related to skill-biased technical change. The second part of the project will study altemative explanations for the break in the trend of rising educational attainment between pre-1950 and post-1950 cohorts. Among the potential explanations that will be explored are the role of changing parental education and other family background characteristics; the effect of the G.I. Bill and veteran education benefits; the effect of Viet Nam-era draft policies; and the effect of supply constraints, caused by the relatively large size of the post-1950 cohorts and a relative slow down in investment in college and university infrastructure in the 1970s.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Social and Economic Sciences (SES)
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Gregory N. Price
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University of California Berkeley
United States
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