Eliciting student expectations of the returns to schooling

Jeff Dominitz, Charles F. Manski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

189 Scopus citations


We report here on the design and first application of an interactive computer-assisted self-administered interview (CASI) survey eliciting from high school students and college undergraduates their expectations of the income they would earn if they were to complete different levels of schooling. We also elicit respondents' beliefs about current earnings distributions. Whereas a scattering of earlier studies have elicited point expectations of earnings unconditional on future schooling, we elicit subjective earnings distributions under alternative scenarios for future schooling. In this exploratory study, we find that respondents are willing and able to respond meaningfully to questions eliciting their earnings expectations in probabilistic form. The 110 respondents vary considerably in their earnings expectations but there is a common belief that the returns to a college education are positive and that earnings rise between ages 30 and 40. There is a common belief that one's own future earnings are rather uncertain. Moreover, respondents tend to overestimate the current degree of earnings inequality in American society.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)X-26
JournalJournal of Human Resources
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Strategy and Management
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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