Lifetime Earnings and College Quality: the NBER-Thorndike-Hagen Data Revisited

Project Dates

02/01/2009 - 06/15/2012


This project will review the small but important literature that has examined the pecuniary returns to attending an elite college or university. Early attempts to address the question examined the NBER-Thorndike-Hagen sample of Work (sic) War II veterans who were interviewed from 1943 through 1968. The research suggested that attending an elite college increased conditional mean earnings by substantially more than attending a less prestigious college. A neglected question is whether elite colleges had (and have) different effects on the earnings of workers at different points in the earnings distribution. This project will reexamine the NBER-Thorndike data using quantile regression to examine the extent to which elite college education increased earnings dispersion among WWII-generation men.


W.E. Upjohn Institute

Subject Area

EDUCATION; Postsecondary education