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THE ECONOMIC RETURN ON INVESTMENTS IN HIGHER EDUCATION: Understanding The Internal Rate of Return Presentation OISE, HEQCO, MTCU Research Symposium Defining and Measuring Student Success Toronto November 22, 2013 Torben Drewes Department of Economics Trent University Background • Much public discussion about the financial viability of investments made by young Canadians in higher education (esp. university) • The term “returns to higher education” occurs often in that discussion – What exactly does that term mean? – How are such returns estimated? – How useful are such estimates? Definitions • • “Return to education” often used loosely. 2011 NHS – average annual wage and salary income for: – – – • • Average college incomes are 61% higher than high school incomes. The “return” to a college diploma is a 61% gain in income. Should be termed the “earnings premium”, not the return. – • high school graduates: $31,400 college graduates: $50,646 university graduates: $62,340 After all, income comparisons do not consider the cost of the investment. The internal rate of return on an investment or project is the "annualized effective compounded return rate" or discount rate that makes the net present value of all cash flows (both positive and negative) from a particular investment equal to zero. – I.e. the interest rate at which the net present value of costs (negative cash flows) of the investment equals the net present value of the benefits (positive cash flows) of the investment. Definitions • • • • Why the confusion between earnings premium and irr? Regressing the natural logarithm of earnings against measures of schooling attainment produces the proportional increase in earnings for each unit change in education: the earnings premium. Jacob Mincer (HCEF): under certain assumptions (eg., no tuition, schooling is measured in years, etc.) the coefficient on the measure of education is the IRR. Those assumptions do not typically hold. – earnings premium from a regression model are not equal to IRR. The IRR Calculation • Consider an annual series of cash flows, Ct, that can be negative or positive. • The IRR solves for the value of ρ so that • Your brother-in-law wants to borrow $100. Promises to repay you $110 in one year. What is the IRR to you on this investment? • Solve −100 + • Why is the IRR useful? The brother-in-law proposes a different repayment schedule: $56 in one year and $58 in two years. How to compare? • Solve −100 + • Let’s try something a little more complicated …. 110 1+ 1 (1+) =0. = 0. So ρ = 0.10, or 10% 56 1+ 1 + 58 1+ 2 = 0. ρ = 0.09, or 0% Internal Rate of Return Calculations Assume Tuition = Assume Schooling Takes Decision year: $6,000 University $3,000 College 4 years University 3 years College 18 years old Annual Earnings High School College Bachelor's Age Graduate Graduate Graduate 18 31400 0 0 19 31400 0 0 20 31400 0 0 21 31400 50646 0 22 31400 50646 62340 23 31400 50646 62340 24 31400 50646 62340 25 31400 50646 62340 26 31400 50646 62340 27 31400 50646 62340 28 31400 50646 62340 29 31400 50646 62340 30 31400 50646 62340 31 31400 50646 62340 32 31400 50646 62340 33 31400 50646 62340 34 31400 50646 62340 35 31400 50646 62340 IRR to Net Gains College Bachelor's -$34,400 -$37,400 -$34,400 -$37,400 -$34,400 -$37,400 $19,246 -$37,400 $19,246 $30,940 $19,246 $30,940 $19,246 $30,940 $19,246 $30,940 $19,246 $30,940 $19,246 $30,940 $19,246 $30,940 $19,246 $30,940 $19,246 $30,940 $19,246 $30,940 $19,246 $30,940 $19,246 $30,940 $19,246 $30,940 $19,246 $30,940 University College 16% Let’s Increase University Tuition Internal Rate of Return Calculations Assume Tuition = Assume Schooling Takes Decision year: $10,000 University $3,000 College 4 years University 3 years College 18 years old Annual Earnings High School College Bachelor's Age Graduate Graduate Graduate 18 31400 0 0 19 31400 0 0 20 31400 0 0 21 31400 50646 0 22 31400 50646 62340 23 31400 50646 62340 24 31400 50646 62340 25 31400 50646 62340 26 31400 50646 62340 27 31400 50646 62340 28 31400 50646 62340 29 31400 50646 62340 30 31400 50646 62340 31 31400 50646 62340 32 31400 50646 62340 33 31400 50646 62340 34 31400 50646 62340 35 31400 50646 62340 IRR to Net Gains College Bachelor's -$34,400 -$41,400 -$34,400 -$41,400 -$34,400 -$41,400 $19,246 -$41,400 $19,246 $30,940 $19,246 $30,940 $19,246 $30,940 $19,246 $30,940 $19,246 $30,940 $19,246 $30,940 $19,246 $30,940 $19,246 $30,940 $19,246 $30,940 $19,246 $30,940 $19,246 $30,940 $19,246 $30,940 $19,246 $30,940 $19,246 $30,940 University College 15% 16% Estimation • Use regression or other smoothing techniques applied to Census data to produce age-earnings profiles. Out-of-pocket (C1) and opportunity (C2) costs are compared to earnings gains (B) to compute IRR. B Earnings • High School University C2 18 C1 22 26 30 34 38 42 46 50 54 58 62 T Age The Caveats 1. Parameters Matter. – Estimates use “prototypical” decision-maker – age 18. – Eg.: returns to adult learning will be lower 2. Only earnings/tuition data are used. – Non-monetary costs and benefits are important, but hard to measure – Implies that IRR calculations are only part of the story. 3. Only private returns – Correct if we are trying to model individual decision or inform young decision-makers. – Incorrect if we are trying to evaluate public policy to promote higher education as social investment. • Need to compare social costs (different than tuition) with social benefits (gross income, reduced health expenditures, implications for productivity of co-workers, etc.) The Caveats 4. Future stream of earnings unknown. – Proxied by current earnings of older workers. 5. The Missing Counterfactual – The high school profile is what the university graduate would have earned had she entered the labour market after high school. – University (and college) graduates may differ from high school completers in other ways that are related to earnings. The ability bias issue. 6. Average vs Marginal Returns – Estimated returns are averages across all individuals participating in higher education. – Policy question may need to estimate returns at the margin. Eg. should we expand access to higher education? The Caveats 7. Estimates are average rates of return. There will be large differences across and within fields of study $120,000 $100,000 $80,000 $60,000 $40,000 $20,000 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 Social Sciences Commerce Life Sciences Engineering Health 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 Humanities 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 Fine Arts 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 Education 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 $0 Math, Computer, &physical Sciences Distribution of real earnings (20th, 50th and 80th percentiles) by field of study for Canadian-born male bachelor’s graduates in 2005 dollars, population aged 25-64 in the labour force: Census 1985 to 2005 Bell, King, Afshar, (2011), POSTSECONDARY EDUCATION AND THE LABOUR MARKET: THE EVOLUTION OF SUPPLY AND DEMAND, 1985 TO 2005, HRSDC Conclusions • • Given these difficulties, should we dump the IRR? No! • Conceptually, IRR to higher education is a valuable theoretical construct in understanding demand for PSE • For good policy design, statistical evidence trumps anecdotal evidence. – • More work needed on empirical implementation, but we need the estimates. What does that statistical evidence look like? OECD Estimates of IRR: Canada 1996 2000 2004 2009 Women 7.3% 9.5% 9.1% 12.2% Men 7.3% 8.7% 9.4% 12.3% Sources: Boarini & Strauss (2010), OECD Journal OECD, Education at a Glance, various years