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The Labor Market Returns to Advanced Degrees

Joseph G. Altonji and Ling Zhong

Journal of Labor Economics, 2021, vol. 39, issue 2, 303 - 360

Abstract: We estimate the returns to a broad set of graduate degrees. To control for heterogeneity in preferences and ability, we use fixed effects for combinations of field-specific undergraduate and graduate degrees obtained by the last time we observe an individual. Basically, we compare earnings before the graduate degree to earnings after it. Using National Science Foundation data, we find large differences across graduate fields in earnings effects. The returns often depend on the undergraduate major. The contribution of occupational upgrading to the earnings gain varies across degrees. Finally, simple regression-based estimates of returns to graduate fields are often highly misleading.

Date: 2021
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