Whether the prodigious cost of going to an elite school is justified by the supposed increase in lifetime earning potential is a question more and more people are asking. The conventional wisdom, of course, is that there is a direct relationship here — the more prestigious the university, the better the student’s chances in life. The education establishment thrives on examined assumptions and this one is a keystone.
Back in 1999, Stacy B. Dale and Alan Krueger published a paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research entitled “Estimating the Payoff to Attending a More Selective College: An Application of Selection on Observables and Unobservables.” You can read the paper’s abstract <a href="
Their conclusions, as summarized by Russell Nieli in an excellent paper published by National Association of Scholars (“The Changing Shape of the
River: Affirmative Action and Recent Social Science Research,” October 2004) “clearly undermine the notion that elite universities provide some sort of unique pathway to wealth, power, and occupational prestige in America.”
In the still substantially meritocratic United States, you succeed on the basis of your productivity. Credentials can open doors, but they don’t make people productive.