Nature or Nurture in Higher Education? Inter-Generational Implications of the Vietnam-Era Lottery

30 Pages Posted: 18 May 2015

See all articles by Louis N. Christofides

Louis N. Christofides

University of Cyprus - Department of Economics; University of Guelph; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute for Economic Research); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Michael Hoy

University of Guelph - Department of Economics

Joniada Milla

Saint Mary's University, Canada - Department of Economics; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Thanasis Stengos

University of Guelph - Department of Economics

Abstract

It is evident that a strong positive correlation persists between the educational attainment of parents and that of their children in many, if not most, populations. This relationship may form an important part of the phenomenon of low social mobility as well as inefficiently low investment in human capital by youth who have parents with relatively low educational attainment. Is it a genetic inter-generational transmission of innate ability from parents to their children (i.e. nature) or is it the environment that the better educated parents provide for their children (i.e. nurture) that explains this positive relationship? Understanding the relative contributions of nature versus nurture is critical to the development of any social policy designed to increase social and economic mobility between generations. Separating the so-called nature and nurture effects of this relationship is a difficult task.We use the Vietnam Era Draft Lottery as a natural experiment to address the nature-nurture question. Attending university in order to avoid the draft created a cohort which included individuals who would not normally have attended post-secondary educational institutions. Comparing the educational attainment of children of this cohort to that of cohorts who attended university in "normal times" creates a natural experiment to test the relative importance of the nature or nurture explanations. Our findings provide evidence in support of the nurture argument.

Keywords: inter-generational mobility, higher education attendance

JEL Classification: I0

Suggested Citation

Christofides, Louis N. and Hoy, Michael and Milla, Joniada and Stengos, Thanasis, Nature or Nurture in Higher Education? Inter-Generational Implications of the Vietnam-Era Lottery. IZA Discussion Paper No. 9046. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2606899

Louis N. Christofides (Contact Author)

University of Cyprus - Department of Economics ( email )

75 Kallipoleos Street
P.O. Box 20537
1678 Nicosia
Cyprus
357 22 892448 (Phone)
357 22 892432 (Fax)

University of Guelph ( email )

Guelph, Ontario
Canada
001-519-763-8497 (Phone)

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute for Economic Research)

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

HOME PAGE: http://www.CESifo.de

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Michael Hoy

University of Guelph - Department of Economics ( email )

50 Stone Road East
Guelph, Ontario N1G 2W1
Canada
519-824-4120, ext. 52169 (Phone)
519-763-8497 (Fax)

Joniada Milla

Saint Mary's University, Canada - Department of Economics ( email )

Halifax, Nova Scotia B3H 3C3
Canada

HOME PAGE: http://www.jmilla.com

IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

HOME PAGE: http://www.iza.org/profile?key=8374

Thanasis Stengos

University of Guelph - Department of Economics ( email )

50 Stone Road East
Guelph, Ontario N1G 2W1
Canada

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