NEW UPDATE: Completed trials may now upload and register supplementary documents (e.g. null results reports, populated pre-analysis plans, or post-trial results reports) in the Post Trial section under Reports, Papers, & Other Materials.
An Experimental Study of the Value of Postsecondary Credentials in the Labor Market
Initial registration date
March 30, 2014
May 03, 2017 10:56 AM EDT
Other Primary Investigator(s)
University of California-Berkeley
Additional Trial Information
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.
Deming, David et al. 2017. "An Experimental Study of the Value of Postsecondary Credentials in the Labor Market." AEA RCT Registry. May 03.
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
Intervention End Date
Primary Outcomes (end points)
Whether an employer calls or emails in response to a submitted resume.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
See the paper and pre-analysis plan for details.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization by computer.
This field will remain hidden until the trial is complete.
Was the treatment clustered?
Sample size: planned number of clusters
2,621 job vacancies.
Sample size: planned number of observations
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.
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
Harvard Committee on the Use of Human Subjects
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Analysis Plan Documents
March 30, 2014
Post Trial Information
Is the intervention completed?
Intervention Completion Date
December 31, 2014, 12:00 AM +00:00
Is data collection complete?
Data Collection Completion Date
November 30, 2014, 12:00 AM +00:00
Final Sample Size: Number of Clusters (Unit of Randomization)
Was attrition correlated with treatment status?
Final Sample Size: Total Number of Observations
Final Sample Size (or Number of Clusters) by Treatment Arms
Reports, Papers & Other Materials
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
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.
REPORTS & OTHER MATERIALS