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What Do Educational Credentials Signal and Why Do Employers Value Credentials?

Economics of Education Review Volume 18, Number 1 ISSN 0272-7757 Publisher: Elsevier Ltd


This paper examines whether employers can infer information about workers' pre-college abilities from the college credentials they acquire and whether employers value the attainment of credentials because credentials signal these abilities. I find that a high school diploma, college attendance, a bachelor's degree and a graduate degree signal higher pre-college abilities that are reflected in scores from tests administered to respondents in the NLSY. However, an associate's degree does not. Estimating a sorting model of wage determination, the results indicate that employers do value the attainment of a bachelor's degree in part because it signals these pre-college abilities. The coefficient estimates on an associate's degree and a bachelor's degree remain statistically significant after controlling for ability. This indicates that these degrees mark other attributes that employers find worthwhile, perhaps unobserved ability such as motivation and perseverance. [JEL J31]


Arkes, J. What Do Educational Credentials Signal and Why Do Employers Value Credentials?. Economics of Education Review, 18(1), 133-141. Elsevier Ltd. Retrieved October 4, 2023 from .

This record was imported from Economics of Education Review on March 1, 2019. Economics of Education Review is a publication of Elsevier.

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