Less educated supervisors create worker status incongruence, a violation of social norms that signals advancement uncertainty and job ambiguity for workers, and leads to negative behavioral and well-being outcomes. The purpose of this paper is to compare education levels of supervisors with their workers and measure the correlation between relative supervisor education and worker job satisfaction.
Using the only wave of the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth that identifies education levels of both supervisor and worker, a series of ordered probit estimates describe the relationship between supervisor education levels and subordinate worker well-being. Extensive controls, sub-sample estimates and a control for sorting confirm the estimates.
Worker well-being is negatively correlated with having a less educated supervisor and positively correlated with having a more educated supervisor. This result is robust to a number of alternative specifications. In sub-sample estimates, workers highly placed in an organization’s hierarchy do not exhibit reduced well-being with less educated supervisors.
A limitation is the inability to control for worker fixed effects, which may introduce omitted variable bias into the estimates.
The paper is the first to introduce relative supervisor–worker education level as a determinant of worker well-being.
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