Empirical essays on the economics of education -PhD thesis-

Publication type

Thesis/Degree/Other Honours


Publication date

June 1, 2013


This thesis consists of three stand-alone papers which address separate
questions regarding
the economics of education and formation of human capital.
Family Background, Gender and Cohort Effects on Schooling decisions
(Chapter 2)
In this chapter we use unique retrospective family background data from
Wave 13 of the
British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) on different birth cohorts to
analyze the relevance of
family background, in particular parental education, and gender on
differential educational
achievement. We find parents' education attainments to be strong
predictors of the education
of their offspring. In particular, maternal education is the main
determinant of postcompulsory
educational attainment. Our results are robust to the inclusion of a
large set of
control variables, including household income. Secondly, we investigate
whether the large
expansion of the UK educational system during recent decades has
concurred with enhanced
relative educational opportunities for children of parents with low
educational background.
The analysis reveals that the relevance of parental education over time
becomes stronger in
terms of achieving higher educational levels, in particular university
degree. However, there
are significant dissimilarities with respect to gender differences.
Particularly, we observe a
positive secular trend in female education attainment associated to
maternal education .
What Determines Post-Compulsory Educational Choice? Evidence from the
longitudinal Study of Young People in England (written with Yu Zhu and
Collier) (Chapter 3)
This chapter is concerned with the detenninants of educational choices,
including the choice between the academic and vocational pathway,
immediately after the completion of compu1sory education. Using a unique
dataset which is rich in both family background and , - I attamment in
education, we flnd that educational attainments at the end of the
(.schooling stage are powerful predictors for post-compulsory
educational choices in England.
In particular, the single academic success indicator of achieving the
Government's gold
standard in GCSE, is able to explain around 30% of the variation in the
proportion of young people studying for academic qualifications. In
contrast, all family background variables
streamlined explain no more than 14% of the variation in the decision to
pursue an academic
qualification upon completion of compulsory education at age 16.
estimation which exploits variations in birth weight and school starting
age suggest that over
half of the least-squares effect of achieving the gold standard in GCSEs
on studying for
academic qualifications is due to individual heterogeneity (ability
bias) or simultaneity bias
(reverse causation). Nonetheless, conditional on the young person
working towards a higherlevel
qualification, we find strong evidence of a highly significant causal
effect of achieving
the gold standard when choosing between the academic or vocational
A Longitudinal Perspective on Higher Education participation in the UK
(Chapter 4)
This final chapter is based on the first seven waves of the Longitudinal
Study of Young
People in England (LSYPE) that allow us to follow a recent cohort of
pupils from age 14
through to Higher Education (HE) participation at age 19/20. Therefore,
our approach
involves using rich individual data that have been linked to school
level infonnation and
geographic markers to examine some of the factors determining HE
participation for
individuals who were in Year 11 in 2005106 and who could therefore flC5t
enter HE in
2008/2009 . Our results indicate that differences in HE participation
(including studying a
science degree and attending prestigious universities) between students
coming from
advantaged and disadvantaged backgrounds are large and that much of the
- gap in HE participation rates is driven by particularly low
participation rates for students at
the bottom of the income distribution. However, when we introduce
controls for prior
educational attainment, student's expectations towards university,
academic results during
secondary schooling and type of school attended, these gaps in
participation are substantially
reduced:-Our analysis suggests that one of the main challenges to
widening participation for
pupils from poorer socia-economic backgrounds is early policy
interventions at, say, age 11
are likely to have an important effect in HE participation. Also,
relatively later
interventions (at ages 14 to 16) which aim to improve the educational
aspirations of teenagers and to target better GCSEs results will further
close this gap.





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