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Working Paper Number SEHSD-WP2013-13
Stephanie Ewert
Component ID: #ti1047875630


The well-established link between educational attainment and socioeconomic outcomes is based on social science research using data sources that effectively measure traditional educational credentials that result in a degree, including high school diplomas, 2- and 4- year degrees, and advanced degrees.  However, with the expanding and changing landscape of the education system and labor market, alternatives to traditional degrees have emerged with labor market value that must be considered when examining social and economic outcomes and inequality therein.  Policy makers and researchers have begun to recognize the labor market value of alternative credentials, including educational certificates and professional certifications and licenses.  President Obama’s call for all adults to obtain at least one year of post-secondary education reflects this growing recognition.  However, there is a dearth of relevant data that comprehensively captures information about these alternative credentials. 

This paper analyzes data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), which collects data on educational attainment and receipt of vocational certificates, to examine differences by sex, age, race and Hispanic origin in combinations of conventional educational attainment and vocational certificates, as well as how these different combinations of attainment affect labor market outcomes and inequality between demographic groups.  This paper also utilizes recent data from the Re-Engineered SIPP field test (SIPP-EHC), which contains new measures of educational certificates and professional certifications and state and industry licenses, to examine the relationship between educational attainment, alternative credentials, and labor market outcomes.  These analyses will demonstrate the value of expanded measures of attainment beyond conventional measures of education from most surveys.  

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