The Relative Returns to Credit- and Non-Credit-Bearing Credentials
While it is commonly understood that education is one of the most reliable paths to economic security—particularly for Black and Latinx people and for people from low-wealth families, it is less well-known that the greatest unmet labor market demand is for workers with “middle skills,” who have some post-high school training but not a 4-year degree. In the throes of an economic downturn, such as the current fallout associated with the coronavirus pandemic, people from all walks of life may pursue additional training in search of reemployment.
We analyzed 20 years of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 panel using an individual fixed-effects regression strategy to estimate the returns to noncredit-bearing credential and licensure pathways compared with credit-bearing credential and associate degree programs. This strategy provides estimates on the returns to training that are unrelated to individual-level, time-invariant factors such as differences in ability and motivation.
Our findings show that credit-bearing credentials yield an approximately equal likelihood to be employed as noncredit-bearing credentials, but significantly improved earnings of about $5,500 a year.