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A question of degree: The effects of degree class on labor market outcomes

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  • Feng, Andy
  • Graetz, Georg

Abstract

How does performance at university affect labor market outcomes? Employing a regression discontinuity design, we show that university degree class causally affects graduates’ industry, wages, and earnings. Our sample consists of students at the London School of Economics, and our data combine administrative records with the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education survey. We estimate that receiving a First Class degree instead of an Upper Second increases the probability of working in a high-wage industry by fourteen percentage points, leads to three percent higher wages, and yields two percent higher annual salaries. For the comparison between Upper and Lower Seconds, the corresponding figures are ten, seven, and four. Effects are larger for males and graduates of math-intensive degree programs. We show that this is consistent with a model of statistical discrimination, in which employers attach more importance to the degree class signal if it is more informative about underlying ability.

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  • Feng, Andy & Graetz, Georg, 2017. "A question of degree: The effects of degree class on labor market outcomes," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 140-161.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecoedu:v:61:y:2017:i:c:p:140-161
    DOI: 10.1016/j.econedurev.2017.07.003
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    Cited by:

    1. Freier, Ronny & Schumann, Mathias & Siedler, Thomas, 2015. "The earnings returns to graduating with honors — Evidence from law graduates," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(C), pages 39-50.
    2. Stijn Baert & Dieter Verhaest, 2021. "Work Hard or Play Hard? Degree Class, Student Leadership and Employment Opportunities," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 83(4), pages 1024-1047, August.
    3. Kara, Elif & Tonin, Mirco & Vlassopoulos, Michael, 2021. "Class size effects in higher education: Differences across STEM and non-STEM fields," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 82(C).
    4. Claire Crawford, 2014. "Socio-economic differences in university outcomes in the UK: drop-out, degree completion and degree class," IFS Working Papers W14/31, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
    5. Machin, Stephen & McNally, Sandra & Ruiz-Valenzuela, Jenifer, 2020. "Entry through the narrow door: The costs of just failing high stakes exams," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 190(C).
    6. Judith M. Delaney & Paul J. Devereux, 2020. "How Gender and Prior Disadvantage Predict Performance in College," The Economic and Social Review, Economic and Social Studies, vol. 51(2), pages 189-239.
    7. Lundin, Martin & Nordström Skans, Oskar & Zetterberg, Pär, 2016. "Leadership experiences, labor market entry, and early career trajectories," Working Paper Series 2016:2, IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy.
    8. Gill Wyness & Lindsey Macmillan & Jake Anders, 2021. "Does education raise people's productivity or does it just signal their existing ability?," CEPEO Briefing Note Series 12, UCL Centre for Education Policy and Equalising Opportunities, revised Apr 2021.
    9. Khoo, Pauline & Ost, Ben, 2018. "The effect of graduating with honors on earnings," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(C), pages 149-162.
    10. Booth, Alison L. & Cardona-Sosa, Lina & Nolen, Patrick, 2018. "Do single-sex classes affect academic achievement? An experiment in a coeducational university," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 168(C), pages 109-126.
    11. Minaya, Veronica & Agasisti, Tommaso & Bratti, Massimiliano, 2022. "When need meets merit: The effect of increasing merit requirements in need-based student aid," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 146(C).
    12. Robin Naylor & Jeremy Smith & Shqiponja Telhaj, 2016. "Graduate returns, degree class premia and higher education expansion in the UK," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 68(2), pages 525-545.
    13. Graetz, Georg, 2017. "Human Capital, Signaling, and Employer Learning: What Insights Do We Gain from Regression Discontinuity Designs?," IZA Discussion Papers 11125, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    14. Naven, Matthew & Whalen, Daniel, 2022. "The signaling value of university rankings: Evidence from top 14 law schools," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 89(C).
    15. Gaurab Aryal & Manudeep Bhuller & Fabian Lange, 2022. "Signaling and Employer Learning with Instruments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 112(5), pages 1669-1702, May.
    16. Claire Crawford & Anna Vignoles, 2014. "Heterogeneity in graduate earnings by socio-economic background," IFS Working Papers W14/30, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
    17. Amez, Simon & Baert, Stijn, 2021. "Bye, bye, Hotel Mama, bye, bye good grades? Living in a student room and exam results in tertiary education," GLO Discussion Paper Series 885, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    18. Delaney, Judith M. & Devereux, Paul J., 2020. "Math matters! The importance of mathematical and verbal skills for degree performance," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 186(C).
    19. Steven Proud, 2014. "Resits in Higher Education: Merely a Bar to Jump Over, or Do They Give a Pedagogical `Leg Up’?," Bristol Economics Discussion Papers 14/645, School of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
    20. Georg Graetz, 2021. "On the interpretation of diploma wage effects estimated by regression discontinuity designs," Canadian Journal of Economics/Revue canadienne d'économique, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 54(1), pages 228-258, February.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Educational economics; Human capital; Salary and wage differentials;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C26 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Instrumental Variables (IV) Estimation
    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials

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