Secondary and Postsecondary Pathways to Labor Market Success: A Proposed Research Program

The National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research (CALDER) received funding from the Gates Foundation for this project. The American Institutes of Research (AIR) was the main contractor and worked with subcontractors from several universities, including Duke University, who, among them, have experience working with rich administrative data in North Carolina, Texas, Florida and Washington. The Duke University team worked primarily with the North Carolina data but will interact extensively with the other research teams.

CALDER received funding from the U.S. Department of Education in 2006 as a national R&D center on state and local education. For the past five years, CALDER has examined state and local K-12 education policies and practices using state-specific longitudinal administrative data files. The purpose of this new project is to build on the prior work by developing a new line of inquiry focused on the relationships between secondary and postsecondary outcomes of students and their labor market success.

We planned to augment the administrative data sets in four of the original CALDER states with data on postsecondary activities and labor market outcomes. Researchers used the new expanded data sets to examine a variety of pathways to both postsecondary and labor market success. The focus throughout was on success for youth from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The project addressed two main sets of issues:
1) The kinds of postsecondary certifications and degrees the labor market rewards over the long term.
2) The educational policies and practices that can lead to more such certifications for disadvantaged youth.

Related to these two main issues were a large number of questions such as whether some types of investment strategies are likely to be more successful for some types of students than for others, the extent to which training in one sector is transferable to another sector, and which returns are likely to survive over time in a dynamic labor market in which demands can shift markedly across jobs and sectors.