Degrees of Relevance: Assessing the Impact of Field and Level of Education on Earnings

Caitlin Hamrock, University of Texas at Austin

Forty years ago Blau and Duncan’s seminal study showed that education played a key role in mediating the effects of socioeconomic origins on occupational achievement. Since then, studies have shown an important link exists between education and occupational achievement, and that increasing levels of educational attainment are associated with higher earnings. Recently, studies have shown that having an education that is relevant to one’s occupation is also associated with higher earnings. This research draws on the 2003 National Survey of College Graduates to investigate which aspect of educational attainment is associated with greater increases in earnings– a higher level of degree or a higher level of degree relevance? Results of this analysis indicate that wage increases associated with highly relevant degrees are significantly greater than wage increases associated with obtaining a higher level of degree, controlling for the degree relevance.

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Presented in Poster Session 5