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Gertrud Fremling

I have a question of measurement. The benefits to college are calculated relative to high school graduates. But as a higher and higher percentage go on to college, the types of people in the two groups are altered. The average IQ for each group goes down as the more and more medium-smart people go on to college. This by itself could possibly affect the earning difference between the two groups. Take the extreme case where everybody except total idiots go to college. Then it would falsely appear that college had become absolutely essential for getting a job.

So are there any better measurements of how the return to college has changed over time?

Eric Rasmusen

How has the after-grants-and-discounts price of a low-status college education changed? Has it increased too, in real terms? That would help us figure out what's happening. I always think about the high end instead, where the difficulty of entrance into status competition means that a Yale or even a Vanderbilt can make lots of hay from our top-1% earners.


i think both becker and posner overlook (or at least don't spend enough time discussing) a much larger, and I think, more critical point regarding the cause of higher tuition costs. In basic economic theory, when something is subsidized people demand more of it because they are not paying for the costs of consuming that subsidized good. Higher education is highly subsidized, which increases the demand for college education, particularly from those who would not be able to afford college in the first place. This increase in student population on campus in turn increases the costs to facilitate a larger student population. Thus, there needs to be an increase in faculty, administration, classrooms and buildings to accommodate more students. Of course, all this costs money, and these costs are subsequently passed on to students in the form of a tuition increase, which then increases the amount of financial aid given, and then the cycle continues. Once the government stops subsidizing education and people either have to go through private lenders, or just find an alternative to college (such as a trade school), prices presumably will drop dramatically.

jim kirby

Regarding "benefits from college, including the greater earnings, health, and even marriage rates of college graduates," it seems that Becker has just crawled out from under some religious rock.

The smartest and best-educated people I know here in Texas are those who have never married. Even Jesus and St Paul wouldn't have agreed with him that marriage is some sign of wisdom, education or success. Maybe he's referring to gays who recently have voluntarily submitted to the miseries of marriage?

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