Three Essays on the Evolution of the Determinants of Educational Attainment and its Consequences

TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Tech


The dissertation focuses on the different determinants of education, their effects on the educational outcome, and the overall effect of education on the lifetime consequences.

The first chapter focuses on the inequality of educational opportunity across different demographic factors. This chapter employs a broader set of social factors to provide fresh insights into the inequality situation in the USA relative to those of the extant literature. The chapter employs polynomial trends for the effects of social factors to identify long-term trends in the determinants of the differences in attainment of each of four achievements (high school graduation, some college, college graduation, and post-college work) across different endogenous social groups. Using the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) data for the years of 1968-2013, we show how inequality of educational opportunity and its determinants have evolved over the years. The chapter utilizes the machine-learning process and logistic regression model to identify inequality of opportunity.

The second chapter examines the age demographic distribution of graduates across cohorts from 1940 until 1990. Using the PSID data, the paper explored the first and second moment of the age of graduating from high school and college across the US. To deal with the data deficiencies, a large part of the chapter dealt with data preparation. The chapter provides a unique method of extracting information on the graduating age of the individuals both from high school and from college. The results show a large dispersion across the full sample. The data truncated to a standard length, however, provides a much smaller dispersion and much smaller moments. The chapter concludes that as the time passes, people tend to attain education at a younger age.

The third chapter investigates the trends of the contribution of different factors of income starting from 1910 cohort. Following Mincer (1974), a wave of papers studied how various factors contribute to the earnings of individuals. This paper contributes to that literature in three ways: (i) using the PSID data, it computes the actual working experience of the individuals, (ii) it studies the cohorts who were born in 1910 or afterwards, unlike the existing papers, and (iii) it adds two variables—technological progress and the occupation with which individuals start their careers—to an extended Mincerian equation. The results re-emphasize the importance of education in lifetime earnings. The results also show that while some of the determinants of income have become more important over the years, other factors have not changed much in importance.



Inequality of Opportunity, Education, Social Factors, Stepwise Selection, Logistic Regression Model, Machine-Learning Process, Age Distribution, Graduation, Income, Decomposition