Tidsskrift for samfunnsforskning. 2003, 44, 331-366
In recent decades there has been a very strong increase in the number of people enrolled in higher education in Norway. This increase has taken place although the economic returns to schooling in Norway are low. The increase in the number of doctoral degrees has been particularly strong. This paper focuses on two issues. First, we estimate the economic returns to a doctoral degree. Second, we provide some largely indirect evidence on how the (low or even negative) economic returns have affected recruitment to doctoral studies. A data set consisting of nearly all graduates in five major educational fields from Norwegian universities from the early 1980's until 1996 is used. Data are analysed by means of LAV regression (wage and income data) and logistic regression for discrete time event history data (attainment of doctoral degrees). There are negative income effects of doctoral degrees in medicine, mathematics and natural sciences, and engineering, and positive but not very strong effects in the humanities and the social sciences. There is no evidence that these different economic returns have had important effects on recruitment patterns. There is, for instance, a strong positive effect of university grades in all five educational fields. Thus, the negative economic returns in some fields do not seem to have had strong negative effects on the quality of the recruits.