No Longer a Guarantee: Postsecondary Education, Job Quality, and Heterogenous Outcomes
Shauna Dyer

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



University of Michigan

Primary Discipline

Postsecondary education is often cited as a pathway out of poverty and a guarantee of a middle- class life. However, over the last forty years, we have seen an increase in those with postsecondary education (without or without a bachelor's degree) who live below the poverty line, and the returns to higher education have become increasingly variable. The average returns to postsecondary education have been well documented, but the educational literature has not fully dealt with the issue of those who experience poor outcomes, and, most of all, has not sufficiently answered the following question: Who is to blame when those who attended college get bad jobs ? higher education or the labor market? In recent years, there has been a great deal of criticism directed at higher education for not adequately equipping students for the labor market. However, if the problem of the value of postsecondary education lies not solely within higher education itself, but also within a destabilized labor market, any proposed changes within higher education may be premature. Using data from several sources including three nationally representative longitudinal surveys, the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979, the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997, and the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, I will compare the educational attainment and labor market outcomes for individuals born between 1958 and 1985 to deepen our current understanding of how changes in job quality interact with growing postsecondary attainment and potentially disrupt the economic returns and poverty reduction mechanisms of higher education.
About Shauna Dyer
Shauna Dyer is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Michigan. Her interests include postsecondary educational inequality, social mobility, labor market changes, and family income inequality. Her research explains how individuals with postsecondary education can experience disappointing economic outcomes. To accomplish this, she had developed studies that disentangle how much of these poor outcomes can be attributed to declining college completion rates or a destabilized labor market. She recently coauthored a paper on changes within higher education that both promote and suppress intergenerational income mobility which was published in the American Sociological Review. She is a Population Studies Predoctoral Trainee at the Institute for Social Research and an Institute for Education Sciences (IES) Fellow. She received her bachelor's degree at California State University at Chico and her master's degree at University of Oregon.

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