College Education, Intelligence, and Disadvantage

Research Seminars

Policy Lessons from the UK in 1960-2004

University access has greatly expanded during past decades and further growth figures prominently in political agendas. We study possible consequences of historical and future expansions in a stochastic, general equilibrium Roy model where intelligence
and disadvantage from socioeconomic and psychological factors determine higher education attainment. The enlargement of university access enacted in the UK following the 1963 Robbins Report provides an ideal case study to draw lessons for the future.
In the presented paper, the authors find that this expansion is associated with a decline of the average intelligence of graduates and of the college wage premium across cohorts, and that it mainly benefited relatively less intelligent students from advantaged socioeconomic backgrounds.
Their structural estimates and counterfactual simulations suggest that the implemented policy was unfit to reach high-ability individuals as Robbins had instead advocated, and that a meritocratic selection of university students would have attained that goal and would have also been more egalitarian.


ZEW – Leibniz-Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung


Prof. Andrea Ichino PhD

Andrea Ichino // European University Institute, San Domenico di Fiesole (FI), Italy

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ZEW – Leibniz-Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung


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