Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Sociology

Content Description

1 online resource (viii, 202 pages)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

James Zetka

Committee Members

Lawrence Raffalovich, Kecia Johnson


education work relationship, labor market, occupational mismatch, occupational segregation, over-qualification, overeducation, Labor supply, College graduates, Education, Higher, Underemployment

Subject Categories



Since 1970, the U.S. labor market has seen a dramatic increase in the occurrence of over-education, where a worker has more education than what is common for their occupation. Although there has been considerable research on the subject, most study has focused on the consequences of over-qualification rather than the causes of or demographic differences in over-education. Additionally, little research on over-qualification has been conducted in the U.S. since 1990. This study extends the data and analysis on over-qualification beyond the 1980s and considers four previously unexamined questions. First, to what extent do workers' log odds of over-education depend on the specific occupation and year in which they work? Secondly, how have changes in the incentives for higher education contributed to the rise in over-education in the contemporary period? Additionally, how have recent labor market changes contributed to the rise in over-qualification? Finally, which of two sets of theories better explains the effects of race and gender on workers' log odds of over-education? The project explores these questions using a sample of black, white, and Hispanic workers aged 25-65 years collected from the Current Population Survey over the years 1971 to 2006 and a three level logistic model wherein workers are nested within occupations and years. The study finds non-significant effects for the education incentive and labor market changes on over-education. However, the research finds considerable occupation and year level variance in workers' log odds of over-qualification. Most surprisingly, the study finds that white women and minority workers have significantly and substantially lower odds of over-education than white men. Moreover, this research finds that occupational segregation plays a mediating role in the effects of race and gender on over-education. These results suggest that gender queue and occupational / social closure theories better explain the effects of race and gender on over-education than job competition theory.

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Sociology Commons