Is the college wealth premium *zero*?

Now this one is a stunner:

The college income premium—the extra income earned by a family headed by a college gra duate over an otherwise similar family without a bachelor’s degree—remains positive but has declined for recent graduates. The college wealth premium (extra wealth) has declined more noticeably among all cohorts born after 1940. Among non-Hispanic white family heads born in the 1980s, the college wealth premium is at a historic low; among all other races and ethnicities, it is statistically indistinguishable from zero [emphasis added]. Using variables available for the first time in the 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances, we find that controlling for the education of one’s parents reduces our estimates of college and postgraduate income and wealth premiums by 8 to 18 percent. Controlling also for measures of a respondent’s financial acumen—which may be partly innate—, our estimates of the value added bycollege and a postgraduate degree fall by 30 to 60 percent. Taken together, our results suggest that college and post-graduate education may be failing some recent graduates as a financial investment. We explore a variety of explanations and conclude that falling college wealth premiums may be due to the luck of when you were born, financial liberalization and the rising cost of higher education.

That paper is by William R. Emmons, Ana H. Kent and Lowell R. Ricketts, and comes from the St. Louis Fed, not from some bunch of (college-educated) cranks.

Via the excellent Samir Varma.


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