Zsofia Barany (Central European University), 28.06.2023

Title: “Late Bloomers? The Causes and Consequences of Graduating from College Later in Life”


It is a well-known fact that the college share in advanced countries has been increasing in the past several decades. This is generally attributed to the cohort succession model; whereby successive cohorts obtain more education. Despite this consensus, using a shift-share decomposition we show that a large and increasing fraction of the aggregate increase in the college share is driven by the within-cohort component in the United States. This contrasts with the general view in the literature that once individuals quit school, they never return to acquire more schooling. We use panel data from the NLSY79 to analyze the consequences of delayed education. In terms of returns to late education, we show that late graduates experience a significant increase in earnings after attending college, although the returns are lower than for early college graduates, especially for men. Using these results we show that there is a bias introduced by late college graduates in cross-sectional estimates of the returns to college.

Coauthors: Moshe Buchinsky and Pauline Corblet.