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Shooting for the Stars and Failing: College Dropout and Self-Esteem

Peter Hoeschler and Uschi Backes-Gellner

No 100, Economics of Education Working Paper Series from University of Zurich, Department of Business Administration (IBW)

Abstract: We investigate the relationship between unfulfilled educational aspirations and self-esteem. Classifications of education relying on completed years of schooling or degree attainment are not able to distinguish between college dropouts with unfulfilled aspirations and graduates with fulfilled aspirations. To separate the two groups, we develop a classification of education combining the highest type of college enrolled in (aspiration) and the highest degree obtained (realization of aspiration). Using data spanning three decades from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, we find that four-year college dropouts compared to graduates have permanently lower self-esteem, whether dropouts obtain an associate's degree or not. However, associate's degree holders who had never enrolled in a four-year college do not experience this long-term negative effect. Therefore, finishing the highest type of college in which the student ever enrolled is critical for the formation of self-esteem. We discuss implications for college enrollment decisions.

Keywords: Self-esteem; Higher Education; Dropouts (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: I21 J13 J24 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 31 pages
Date: 2014-05, Revised 2019-02
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-edu
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