Education, earnings, and rates of return: The case of Taiwan

Dean-Ming Wu, Florida International University


Educational planners and economists have long recognized the importance of education as a form of productive investment in both advanced countries and developing countries. In the case of Taiwan, along with impressive economic growth, there was an even faster rate of growth of the government's investment in education. This leads some to question whether education has any role in economic development. The purpose of this study is to provide a broad overview of the role of education, in terms of private rates of return to education, in Taiwan. In the process, a variety of hypotheses about human capital theory are examined and an empirical study of Taiwan's earnings functions are tested to show that education can be an important instrument to increase private rate of return, even under conditions of scarcity of natural and physical resources. Data was collected using the Manpower Survey and Manpower Utilization Survey, conducted by the government. Research questions were analyzed using descriptive statistics, frequencies, and regression analysis. Results indicated that the Manpower Development Plans have been the decisive influence in allowing Taiwan to develop its human resources and achieve success in meeting the needs of Taiwan's economy. The structure of age-earnings profiles showed a strong relationship between earnings and education, and the profiles that successively shift upward are associated with higher levels of education. In the cross-sectional results of the rate of return in 1997, each additional year of schooling leads to a 6.2% increase in income. As to the private rates of return to different levels of education, the results found that the private rates of return are 2.88%, 4.85% and 10.05% for primary, secondary and higher education respectively. In an intertemporal comparison for 1980, 1985, 1990 and 1997, the results showed no significant trend except the private rates of return for primary education have been falling from 3.9% to 2.88%. On the basis of this study, for individual student or family in Taiwan, there is likely to be a strong demand for education, particularly at the higher level. Therefore, a well-developed higher educational level becomes essential and the content of curriculum in higher education becomes another crucial question facing planners in Taiwan if they are going to use education as a means to foster economic development.

Subject Area

Educational sociology|Economics

Recommended Citation

Wu, Dean-Ming, "Education, earnings, and rates of return: The case of Taiwan" (1999). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI9919739.