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Deconstructing Theories of Overeducation in Europe: A Wage Decomposition Approach

Skill Mismatch in Labor Markets

ISBN: 978-1-78714-378-4, eISBN: 978-1-78714-377-7

Publication date: 11 May 2017


This paper uses data from the Cedefop European Skills and Jobs survey (ESJS) (Cedefop, 2014, ESJS microdata are Cedefop copyright and are reproduced with the permission of Cedefop. Further information is available at Cedefop, 2015), a new international dataset on skill mismatch of adult workers in 28 EU countries, to decompose the wage penalty of overeducated workers. The ESJ survey allows for integration of a rich set of variables in the estimation of the effect of overeducation on earnings, such as individuals’ job search motives and the skill needs of their jobs. Oaxaca decomposition techniques are employed to uncover the extent to which the earnings penalties of overeducated workers can be attributed to either (i) individual human capital attributes, (ii) job characteristics, (iii) information asymmetries, (iv) compensating job attributes, or (iv) assignment to jobs with different skill needs. Differences in human capital and job-skill requirements are important factors in explaining the wage premium. It is found that asymmetry of information accounts for a significant part of the overeducation wage penalty of tertiary education graduates, whereas job characteristics and the low skill content of their jobs can explain most of the wage gap for medium-qualified employees. Little evidence is found in favor of equilibrium theories of compensating wage differentials and career mobility. Accepting that much remains to be learned with regards to the drivers of overeducation, this paper provides evidence in support of the need for customized policy responses to tackle overeducation.



McGuinness, S. and Pouliakas, K. (2017), "Deconstructing Theories of Overeducation in Europe: A Wage Decomposition Approach ", Skill Mismatch in Labor Markets (Research in Labor Economics, Vol. 45), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 81-127.



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