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An Experimental Study of the Value of Postsecondary Credentials in the Labor Market
Last registered on May 03, 2017

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
An Experimental Study of the Value of Postsecondary Credentials in the Labor Market
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0000262
Initial registration date
March 30, 2014
Last updated
May 03, 2017 10:56 AM EDT
Location(s)
Region
Primary Investigator
Affiliation
Harvard University
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
University of California-Berkeley
PI Affiliation
Harvard University
PI Affiliation
Harvard University
Additional Trial Information
Status
Completed
Start date
2014-04-01
End date
2014-12-31
Secondary IDs
Abstract
We study employers’ perceptions of the value of postsecondary degrees using a field experiment. We randomly assign the sector and selectivity of institutions to fictitious resumes and apply to real vacancy postings for business and health jobs on a large online job board. We find that a business bachelor’s degree from a for-profit “online” institution is 22 percent less likely to receive a callback than one from a non-selective public institution. In applications to health jobs, we find that for-profit credentials receive fewer callbacks unless the job requires an external quality indicator such as an occupational license.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
Deming, David et al. 2017. "An Experimental Study of the Value of Postsecondary Credentials in the Labor Market." AEA RCT Registry. May 03. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.262-4.0.
Former Citation
Deming, David et al. 2017. "An Experimental Study of the Value of Postsecondary Credentials in the Labor Market." AEA RCT Registry. May 03. https://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/262/history/17231.
Sponsors & Partners

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Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
Despite growing demand, the supply of highly skilled college graduates in the U.S. has not kept pace. In contrast to sluggish growth in the public sector, enrollment in for-profit institutions has grown rapidly over the last fifteen years. Yet little is known about the labor market return to a for-profit education. Do employers value credentials from some institutions more than others? We address these questions using a large-scale resume audit field experiment. We construct fictitious resumes, randomly vary the institution from which the job applicant received a degree or certificate, and apply to job vacancies that are posted on a large, national job search website. While our primary research question concerns employers’ valuations of a for-profit versus public credential, we also test the impact of having any credential for job vacancies that do not require it. Additionally, our planned sample size allows us to examine heterogeneity by occupation, degree, and labor market. In this pre-analysis plan, we describe the structure of the experiment, and we present early results from a pilot version of our study. The full version of the study went into the field on Monday, March 31st and will conclude by the end of November 2014.
Intervention Start Date
2014-04-01
Intervention End Date
2014-12-31
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
Whether an employer calls or emails in response to a submitted resume.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
See the paper and pre-analysis plan for details.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomization by computer.
Randomization Unit
This field will remain hidden until the trial is complete.
Was the treatment clustered?
Yes
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
2,621 job vacancies.
Sample size: planned number of observations
10,484 resumes.
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
2,621 in each of 4 treatment arms.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
Our power calculations suggest that we will be able to detect a 1 percentage point difference at a significance level of 5 percent and at 80 percent power for the overall treatment, and 1.5 percentage points for key subgroups.
Supporting Documents and Materials

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IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
Harvard Committee on the Use of Human Subjects
IRB Approval Date
2013-10-18
IRB Approval Number
IRB13-1856
Analysis Plan
Analysis Plan Documents
Deming_FPAudit.pdf

MD5: 0f6506d9f6eff9ecedc17c0bd63aab7c

SHA1: 27bbe62aeff0f2b4bffc3ede4c30676db7d66b4b

Uploaded At: March 30, 2014

Post-Trial
Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Intervention
Is the intervention completed?
Yes
Intervention Completion Date
December 31, 2014, 12:00 AM +00:00
Is data collection complete?
Yes
Data Collection Completion Date
November 30, 2014, 12:00 AM +00:00
Final Sample Size: Number of Clusters (Unit of Randomization)
2,621 jobs
Was attrition correlated with treatment status?
No
Final Sample Size: Total Number of Observations
10,484 resumes
Final Sample Size (or Number of Clusters) by Treatment Arms
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
Yes
Program Files
Program Files
Yes
Reports and Papers
Preliminary Reports
Relevant Papers
Abstract
e study employers' perceptions of the value of postsecondary degrees using a field experiment. We randomly assign the sector and selectivity of institutions to fictitious resumes and apply to real vacancy postings for business and health jobs on a large online job board. We find that a business bachelor's degree from a for-profit online institution is 22 percent less likely to receive a callback than one from a nonselective public institution. In applications to health jobs, we find that for-profit credentials receive fewer callbacks unless the job requires an external quality indicator such as an occupational license
Citation
Deming, David J., Noam Yuchtman, Amira Abulafi, Claudia Goldin, and Lawrence F. Katz. 2016. "The Value of Postsecondary Credentials in the Labor Market: An Experimental Study." American Economic Review, 106(3): 778-806.