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The Causes and Consequences of Cross-Country Differences in Schooling Attainment

Schoellman, Todd (2008): The Causes and Consequences of Cross-Country Differences in Schooling Attainment.

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Abstract

This paper measures the role of quality-adjusted education in accounting for cross- country differences in income per worker. The returns to schooling of immigrants to the United States are used as a measure of their source-country education quality. Returns are available for 130 countries and vary by up to an order of magnitude between developed and developing countries. A model shows why the returns to schooling of immigrants and not other wage statistics are an appropriate measure of education quality. The model is consistent with the relationships between education quality, average school attainment, and the returns to schooling for immigrants and non-migrants. Calibrating the model, or augmenting a Bils and Klenow (2000)-style accounting exercise to account for education quality, yields large results. Quality- adjusted schooling is found to account for 38-42% of the income difference between the richest and poorest quintiles of countries, as opposed to the 21-24% in the current literature that accounts only for years of schooling.

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