Returns to University Courses


Brandon Joel Tan. In Preparation. “Returns to University Courses”.
paper288 KB


Education is one of the most important determinants of wages at the individual level. However, there is much debate about the mechanisms by which education leads to higher wages. In this paper, I study the returns to taking particular courses and developing specific human capital at the university level. National University of Singapore (NUS) provides a unique setting in which students bid to take courses each semester. I exploit a regression discontinuity design (RDD) to quantify the impact of taking specific courses. Specifically, close to the thresholds that determine a winning bid, individuals with very similar bids may be enrolled or turned away from taking the course. I find that learning a second language increases monthly gross income by about 300 USD. Taking statistics elective courses increases monthly gross income by about 650 USD. I also find evidence for positive income returns to Computer Science related electives, and Finance. I don't find significant returns for elective courses offered by general science or humanities departments. In future work, I will look at occupational choice outcomes, and am planning to implement an RCT where we nudge a treatment group of students to take particular STEM courses via an information intervention.
Last updated on 12/21/2020