The value of educational degrees in turbulent economic times: Evidence from the Youth Development Study

Mike Vuolo, Jeylan T. Mortimer, Jeremy Staff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations

Abstract

Rising costs of higher education have prompted debate about the value of college degrees. Using mixed effects panel models of data from the Youth Development Study (ages 31-37), we compare occupational outcomes (i.e., weekly hours worked, earnings, employment status, career attainment, and job security) between educational attainment categories within year, and within categories across years, from 2005 to 2011, capturing the period before, during, and in the aftermath of the Great Recession. Our findings demonstrate the long-term value of post-secondary degrees. Bachelor's and Associate's degree recipients, while experiencing setbacks at the height of recession, were significantly better off than those with some or no college attendance. Vocational-Technical degree holders followed a unique trajectory: pre-recession, they are mostly on par with Associate's and Bachelor's recipients, but they are hit particularly hard by the recession and then rebound somewhat afterwards. Our findings highlight the perils of starting but not finishing post-secondary educational programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)233-252
Number of pages20
JournalSocial Science Research
Volume57
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The Youth Development Study was supported by grants, “Work Experience and Mental Health: A Panel Study of Youth,” from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development ( HD44138 ) and the National Institute of Mental Health ( MH42843 ). Jeremy Staff is grateful for the support he received during the writing of this manuscript from a Mentored Research Scientist Development Award in Population Research from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development ( HD054467 ). The funding sources had no role in the research conducted in this article. The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not represent the views of the sponsors. The authors would like to thank Shannon Fleishman and Chen-Yu Wu for research assistance.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier Inc.

Copyright:
Copyright 2016 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

Keywords

  • Associate's degrees
  • Bachelor's degrees
  • College dropout
  • Employment
  • Great Recession

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