IZA DP No. 3097: Africa’s Education Enigma? The Nigerian Story
published in: Journal of Development Economics, 2010, 91 (1), 128-139
In the last two decades, the social and economic benefits of formal education in Sub-Saharan Africa have been debated. Anecdotal evidence points to low returns to education in Africa. Unfortunately, there is limited econometric evidence to support these claims at the micro level. In this study, I focus on Nigeria a country that holds 1/5 of Africa’s population. I use instruments based on the exogenous timing of the implementation and withdrawal of free primary education across regions in this country to consistently estimate the returns to education in the late 1990s. The results show the average returns to education are particularly low in the 90s, in contrast to conventional wisdom for developing countries (2.8% for every extra year of schooling between 1997 and 1999). Surprisingly, I find no significant differences between OLS and IV estimates of returns to education when necessary controls are included in the wage equation. The low returns to education results shed new light on both the changes in demand for education in Nigeria and the increased emigration rates from African countries that characterized the 90s.