L’università conviene? Un’analisi dei costi, dei rendimenti e dei rischi dell’investimento in istruzione universitaria nel sistema del 3+2

Literature on the profitability of tertiary studies usually agrees that university graduates enjoy better occupational premia when compared to secondary school graduates. Yet, these studies often base their claims on simple mean comparisons of wages and employment opportunities between tertiary and secondary graduates, disregarding important factors, such as dropout risks, opportunity costs and field-of-study heterogeneity. This study tackles these issues by estimating short and long-term returns of the university investment in Italy. Our proposed approach to compute returns to tertiary education emphasizes three key aspects that are often neglected in previous studies: i) drop-out and delayed-graduation, ii) age-earnings profiles, iii) gender, social-origin and residential heterogeneity in returns. Relying on several nationally representative data sources, we show that in Italy the profitability of university studies is low on average, mainly because of the modest wave gaps between young secondary and tertiary graduates. According to our simulations, the economic convenience of university studies arises only in the long run, when the entry opportunity costs are counterbalanced by the higher wages. For the Humanities this does not happen even in late career stages.

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Publication number: Working Paper 2017-07
Date: 11/2017
  • Returns to education,
  • University drop-out,
  • Graduation delay,
  • Age-earning profiles