Time to Baccalaureate Degree in the Labor Market: A Field Experiment

Last registered on November 17, 2022


Trial Information

General Information

Time to Baccalaureate Degree in the Labor Market: A Field Experiment
Initial registration date
January 07, 2022

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
January 07, 2022, 11:31 PM EST

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.

Last updated
November 17, 2022, 11:41 AM EST

Last updated is the most recent time when changes to the trial's registration were published.



Primary Investigator

Georgia State University

Other Primary Investigator(s)

Additional Trial Information

In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
Among bachelor’s degree attaining students, only 58 percent complete within four years. Meanwhile, 26 percent complete in five years and 16 percent complete in 6 or more years. While most students experience substantial labor market returns from attending and completing college, little is known about the heterogeneity in these returns by how much time students take to complete their degree. Understanding this heterogeneity is important especially given the large opportunity costs associated with spending extra time enrolled in college. This study will fill this gap in the literature by studying the relationship between time to degree and labor market outcomes with a résumé audit study that randomly assigns the time to bachelor’s degree indicated on fictitious résumés that are sent to real job postings. A focus of the experiment will be assessing the interaction of the signals of time to degree and college quality. Graduating from a higher quality college could mitigate or exacerbate any time to degree penalties.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Bloem, Michael. 2022. "Time to Baccalaureate Degree in the Labor Market: A Field Experiment." AEA RCT Registry. November 17. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.8782-1.2000000000000004
Experimental Details


The intervention is a resume audit experiment, where realistic, yet fictitious resumes--which vary systematically only by select treatment conditions--are submitted to real job postings.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
The primary outcome is whether a resume receives a positive response from an employer.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
The experiment will involve submitting up to four résumés to each job opening. Following recommendations from Phillips (2019) to mitigate potential spillover bias among résumés sent to the same vacancy, each résumé sent will have an equal probability of being one of four résumé “types” (i.e., treatments). These four types represent the interaction between time to bachelor’s degree (four or six years) and the selectivity of the bachelor’s degree granting institution:
1) Four years to degree from a selective public institution
2) Four years to degree from a less selective public institution
3) Six years to degree from a selective public institution
4) Six years to degree from a less selective public institution.
Experimental Design Details
Time to bachelor’s degree will be signaled by the years listed next to the bachelor’s degree granting institution indicated on the résumé. Institutions in which the fictitious job applicants received their bachelor’s degree will be carefully selected such that there is a clear distinction between the relatively more selective and less selective colleges as measured by standard selectivity measures (e.g., average SAT scores, admit rate, etc.). These institutions will be selected to be well known public colleges located near the metropolitan area of the respective job posting, or near enough that it is common for graduates of the institution to enter the metropolitan area’s labor market (e.g., University of Georgia graduates and the Atlanta metropolitan area).

The experiment will focus on recent bachelor’s degree recipients. Thus, I will send résumés to openings to entry-level jobs that require a bachelor’s degree, but little to no required years of experience. The focus on entry-level jobs has the advantage that time to degree and postsecondary institutions are arguably most salient to employers early in the career. With the full study anticipated to be conducted during the spring of the 2022 calendar year, all résumés will list bachelor’s degree completion in 2022, with time to degree indicated by an earlier start year (i.e., 2018 or 2016). Thus, résumés sent before May will be forthcoming graduates. If data collection continues after May, the fictitious job candidates will be very recent graduates.

I plan to send the résumés to job postings in roughly 10-15 large cities in the U.S. that neatly meet the criteria of having nearby public colleges with sufficiently different selectivity. To simplify résumé creation and the job search process, the experiment will focus on business jobs, the industry with the largest employment of bachelor’s degree holders. The employment experiences in this experiment are designed to be orthogonal to the treatments such that work experience is similar between applicants with four and six years to degree.

The names listed on the résumés are chosen so that the job applicants would vary by gender and race. Email addresses and phone numbers will correspond to names and be generated through Google. To mimic a recent or forthcoming graduate, physical addresses will be assigned to be in large apartment complexes with reasonable commutes to the institution in which the student earns their bachelor’s degree. Résumés will list a high school name and graduation year. High schools will be chosen to be a large and diverse school located in the metropolitan area of the job search. High school graduation year will be the same as the applicant’s college start year, implying zero years between high school graduation and entry into college. Résumés will also be assigned one of seven business-related majors associated with their bachelor’s degree: business, accounting, economics, finance, business management, marketing, and business economics.

The final section of each résumé is a “Skills” section. I will create several skill “templates,” based on résumés posted by real job seekers with bachelor’s degrees in business fields. All templates will list skills in “Microsoft Office” in some form since this is very common among real business job seekers. The templates will also include some other technical skills such as “database management” or “salesforce” and some templates may include some “soft” skills or general attributes, like “team player” or “detail-oriented”. Skill templates will be orthogonal to the treatments, but they will be assigned without replacement within job vacancy. Thus, among résumés sent to the same job posting, résumés will not have the same skill template.
Randomization Method
Randomization is done using the resume randomizer software developed by Lahey and Beasley (2009)
Randomization Unit
Resumes are randomized to create variation within job vacancy (employer).
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
~2,500 job vacancies (employers)
Sample size: planned number of observations
~10,000 resumes
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Resumes will be randomized to create equal sized groups among the four treatment conditions.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Georgia State University Institutional Review Board
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Analysis Plan

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Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

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Is the intervention completed?
Data Collection Complete
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials