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The Global Distribution of College Graduate Quality

Working Paper 791 | Published March 7, 2022

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Paolo Martellini University of Wisconsin-Madison
Todd Schoellman Senior Research Economist
Jason Sockin University of Pennsylvania
The Global Distribution of College Graduate Quality


We measure college graduate quality — the average human capital of a college’s graduates—using the average earnings of the college’s graduates adjusted to a common labor market. Our implementation uses the database of the website Glassdoor, which has the necessary information on earnings and education for non-migrants and migrants who graduate from roughly 3,300 colleges in 66 countries. Graduates of colleges in the richest countries have 50 percent more human capital than graduates of colleges in the poorest countries. Migration reinforces these differences. Poorer countries do not just lose a higher share of their skilled workers; their emigrants are highly positively selected on human capital. Finally, we show that these stocks and flows matter for growth and development by showing that college graduate quality predicts the share of a college’s students who become inventors, engage in entrepreneurship, and become top executives, both within and across countries.

Published in: _Journal of Political Economy_ (Vol. 132, No. 2, February 2024, pp. 434-483),