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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/24333

Title: Taking a Risk: Does Human Capital Investment Pay Off for Educationally Disadvantaged Adults?
Authors: Myers, Karen
Advisor: Myles, John
Department: Sociology
Keywords: adult education
labour markets
returns to education
Issue Date: 14-Apr-2010
Abstract: Although human capital investment is often proposed as a solution to improve the labour market prospects of individuals who reach adulthood without obtaining a post-secondary credential, little is known about whether skills upgrading actually pays off. Using three national cross-sectional surveys on adult education as well as longitudinal data from the Panel Survey of Income Dynamics (1992-2005), I analyze how returning to school affects the earnings trajectories of men and women who enter the labour force with low levels of initial education. There are two major findings related to the earnings and advancement question. First, although both Canadian and American adults with low levels of initial education are significantly less likely than their more educated counterparts to participate in education and training, when they do participate, they are more likely to report it helped them increase their earnings. Second, these perceived gains are matched by substantial gains in actual earning growth. While the opportunity cost of returning to school is quite high – returnees experience a sharp drop in annual earnings during the years while they are in school – for both women and men, this investment yields a significant increase in earnings in the post schooling period. In addition, I address the question of why – if the earnings gains are so substantial – do so few less educated adults return to school? There are three key findings related to the participation question. First, even after accounting for a rich set of covariates, the effects of family of origin socio-economic status on educational attainment persist over the life course. Second, despite these enduring effects, current family and labour market dynamics matter as well. Consistent with the human capital model, I find evidence that, educationally disadvantaged individuals return to school to improve their labour market prospects. Taken together these results demonstrate that at least for some educationally disadvantaged adults, human capital investment is an effective strategy for labour market advancement. This conclusion challenges the standard ‘cumulative disadvantage’ view of adult education as simply another mechanism that serves to reproduce inequality.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/24333
Appears in Collections:Doctoral
Department of Sociology - Doctoral theses

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