Chapter 3 The Long-Term Career Consequences of College Undermatching

In: Responsibility of Higher Education Systems
Authors:
Marjolein Muskens
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Gregory C. Wolniak
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Lex Borghans
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Abstract

When students attend institutions that are less selective than their academic credentials would permit (i.e., “undermatching”), this may reinforce social and economic inequality, especially for first generation students. Yet little is known about its long-term, post-college consequences for careers. Drawing on longitudinal data from Germany (SOEP, N = 8,336) and applying propensity score matching techniques, results show that undermatching is negatively related to wages during adulthood, replicating previously published findings in the U.S. Moreover, results show negative relationships between undermatching and satisfaction with aspects of one’s job that increase with age. It also appears that these relations are most pronounced among first-generation students. In sum, the findings support perspectives on undermatching that are grounded in notions of academic misalignment and peer effects. These findings have significant implications for our understanding about the consequences of undermatching in relation to outcomes later in life, and for the formulation of policies for promoting long-term career success and social mobility aimed at first-generation students.

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