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The Theory of Differential Overqualification: Does it Work?


  • Felix Buchel

    (Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin and Technical University of Berlin)

  • Harminder Battu

    (University of Aberdeen)


The theory of differential overqualification, developed by Robert Frank (1978), claims that married women in smaller labour markets have a higher risk of working in jobs for which they are overqualified. This stems from the problem of dual job search for couples which is much more difficult to optimize than single job search. Here, for several reasons husbands tend to first optimize their individual job search. Their wives are "tied movers" or "tied stayers" in the sense that their job search is undertaken under the condition that the job search of their husbands is optimized. This leads especially in smaller labour markets to a higher risk of a mismatch between formal qualifications and job requirements. The only specific empirical test of this theory, until now, has been performed by McGoldrick and Robst (1996). Their results, using US data, do not support the theory. Using German panel data (GSOEP), we also test the theory of differential overqualification. Unlike previous studies we control for commuting distances and our own results provide some mixed support for the differential overqualification hypothesis. Copyright Scottish Economic Society 2003

Suggested Citation

  • Felix Buchel & Harminder Battu, 2003. "The Theory of Differential Overqualification: Does it Work?," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 50(1), pages 1-16, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:scotjp:v:50:y:2003:i:1:p:1-16

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    Cited by:

    1. Raúl Ramos & Esteban Sanromá, 2013. "Overeducation and Local Labour Markets in Spain," Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie, Royal Dutch Geographical Society KNAG, vol. 104(3), pages 278-291, July.
    2. Maite Blázquez & Santiago Budría, 2012. "Overeducation dynamics and personality," Education Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 20(3), pages 260-283, March.
    3. Inmaculada García-Mainar & Víctor M. Montuenga-Gómez, 2017. "Subjective educational mismatch and signalling in Spain," Documentos de Trabajo dt2017-03, Facultad de Ciencias Económicas y Empresariales, Universidad de Zaragoza.
    4. Peter Huber, 2012. "Do commuters suffer from job--education mismatch?," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 19(4), pages 349-352, March.
    5. Daniela Rohrbach-Schmidt & Michael Tiemann, 2016. "Educational (Mis)match and skill utilization in Germany: Assessing the role of worker and job characteristics
      [Qualifikatorisches (Mis)matching und die Ausnutzung von fachlichen Kenntnissen und Fäh
      ," Journal for Labour Market Research, Springer;Institute for Employment Research/ Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung (IAB), vol. 49(2), pages 99-119, October.
    6. Peter Huber, 2011. "Educational Attainment and Education-job Mismatch of Cross-border Commuters in the EU," WIFO Working Papers 388, WIFO.
    7. Boll, Christina & Leppin, Julian & Rossen, Anja & Wolf, André, 2016. "Overeducation - New evidence for 25 European countries," IAB Discussion Paper 201635, Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung (IAB), Nürnberg [Institute for Employment Research, Nuremberg, Germany].
    8. Daniel Erdsiek, 2016. "Overqualification of graduates: assessing the role of family background
      [Überqualifikation von Hochschulabsolventen: Welche Rolle spielt der familiäre Hintergrund?]
      ," Journal for Labour Market Research, Springer;Institute for Employment Research/ Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung (IAB), vol. 49(3), pages 253-268, November.
    9. International Labour Office., 2013. "Global employment trends for youth 2013 : a generation at risk," Global Employment Trends Reports 994816973402676, International Labour Office, Economic and Labour Market Analysis Department.
    10. Ingrid Linsley, 2005. "Overeducation in the Australian Labour Market : Its Incidence and Effects," Department of Economics - Working Papers Series 939, The University of Melbourne.
    11. Michael Quinn & Stephen Rubb, 2011. "Spouse Overeducation and Family Migration: Evidence from the US," Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Springer, vol. 32(1), pages 36-45, March.
    12. Mañé Vernet, Ferran & Miravet, Daniel, 2010. "Sobreeducación y Sobrecualificación en los Universitarios Catalanes. Una perspectiva de género," Working Papers 2072/179592, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Department of Economics.
    13. Valentina Meliciani & Debora Radicchia, 2014. "Informal Network, Spatial Mobility and Overeducation in the Italian Labour Market," Working Papers 19, Birkbeck Centre for Innovation Management Research, revised Nov 2014.
    14. Valentina Meliciani & Debora Radicchia, 2016. "Informal networks, spatial mobility and overeducation in the Italian labour market," The Annals of Regional Science, Springer;Western Regional Science Association, vol. 56(2), pages 513-535, March.
    15. repec:wyi:journl:002178 is not listed on IDEAS
    16. Peter Huber & Klaus Nowotny & Julia Bock-Schappelwein, 2010. "Qualification Structure, Over- and Underqualification of the Foreign Born in Austria and the EU," FIW Research Reports series II-008, FIW.
    17. Joanne Lindley & Steven McIntosh, 2010. "Is the Over-Education Wage Penalty Permanent?," School of Economics Discussion Papers 0110, School of Economics, University of Surrey.
    18. Signe Jauhiainen, 2006. "Regional Differences in Overeducation," ERSA conference papers ersa06p180, European Regional Science Association.
    19. Joanne Lindley & Steven McIntosh, 2008. "A Panel Data Analysis of the Incidence and Impact of Over-education," Working Papers 2008009, The University of Sheffield, Department of Economics, revised Jul 2008.
    20. Carolina Castagnetti & Luisa Rosti & Marina Toepfer, 2017. "Overeducation and the Gender Pay Gap in Italy. A Double Selectivity Approach," DEM Working Papers Series 144, University of Pavia, Department of Economics and Management.
    21. van Ham, Maarten & Büchel, Felix, 2004. "Females' Willingness to Work and the Discouragement Effect of a Poor Local Childcare Provision," IZA Discussion Papers 1220, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    22. Marta Pascual Sáez & Noelia González-Prieto & David Cantarero-Prieto, 2016. "Is Over-Education a Problem in Spain? Empirical Evidence Based on the EU-SILC," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 126(2), pages 617-632, March.

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