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Students' expectations of the economic returns to college education Results of a controlled experiment

By Anabela Botelho and Lígia Pinto


This study reports the results of an experiment designed to elicit students' subjective beliefs about the economic returns to college education. An important feature of our experimental design is the inclusion of financial incentives for accurate reporting. We also consider the extent to which individuals' beliefs about their own returns differ from their beliefs about the returns for others. The evidence shows that students do have a self-enhancement tendency, and this finding cannot be attributed to previously uncontrolled order effects. The evidence also indicates that there is no significant difference between beliefs elicited using hypothetical surveys or real financial incentives in the elicitation procedure. This finding suggests that economists' reluctance to gather subjective data on earnings expectations may not be warrant.rate of return, human capital

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