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The “Mincer Equation” Thirty Years After Schooling, Experience, And Earnings

T. Lemieux
Published 2006 · Economics

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This paper evaluates the empirical performance of the standard Mincer earnings equation thirty years after the publication of Schooling, Experience and Earnings. Over this period, there has been a dramatic expansion in micro data and estimation techniques available to labor economists. How does the Mincer equation stand in light of these advances in empirical labor economics? Is it time to revise our benchmark model? On the basis of the existing literature and some new empirical estimates, I conclude that the Mincer equation remains an accurate benchmark for estimating wage determination equations provided that it is adjusted by (1) including a quartic function in potential experience instead of just a quadratic, (2) allowing for a quadratic term in years of schooling to capture the growing convexity in the relationship between schooling and wages, and (3) allowing for cohort effects to capture the dramatic growth in returns to schooling among cohorts born after 1950.
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