While the popularity of international mobility programs has been increasing, debate continues over what students actually gain from this experience.
It is often claimed that these programs provide students with the skills employers look for, which can significantly increase their earnings potential once they enter the work force. However, there is no clear consensus in the literature about this.
The article “Studying abroad and earnings: A meta-analysis” attempts to reconcile results across empirical studies in such domain. Meta-analysis is a set of statistical techniques for combining data from independent studies to estimate the overall, or combined effect. The summary result produced by meta-analysis is less subject to bias and uncertainty compared to the conclusion obtained by single studies.
A total of 166 estimates of returns to studying abroad (i.e., change in earnings due to participation in study abroad programs) from 17 studies are considered in the meta-analysis. These studies, most of which have been published recently, cover a total of 19 countries, including 14 from the EU.
The findings suggest that the overall wage premium associated with studying abroad is positive and statistically significant, though its magnitude is small (i.e., between 2 and 5%). Additionally, the analysis indicates that there is considerable heterogeneity in the reported estimates of returns to studying abroad.
This is likely to be caused by the nature of the effect under study. Studies (and estimates within studies) differ in many aspects that are likely to influence the wage effect of studying abroad. There is also evidence of positive publication bias, though there is disagreement between tests on the size of the effect of interest after correcting for this issue.
Although this meta-analysis focuses on study abroad programs in general and does not specifically analyse ERASMUS (the EU’s flagship student mobility program), the empirical findings indicate that ERASMUS has several characteristics that may result in a higher wage premium for its participants.
For instance, while the ERASMUS mobility period lasts for a minimum of 3 months and a maximum of 12 months, estimates from the meta-regression analysis suggest that stays abroad beyond 1 month tend to be more beneficial in terms of future wage gains.
- Publication date
- 1 December 2021