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How vocational education made women better off but left men behind

Paloma Acevedo, Guillermo Cruces, Paul Gertler and Sebastian Martinez

Labour Economics, 2020, vol. 65, issue C

Abstract: This paper examines the interaction between vocational and soft skills training on labor market outcomes and expectations of youth in the Dominican Republic. Applicants to a training program were randomly assigned to one of three modalities: a full treatment consisting of vocational and soft skills training plus an internship, a partial treatment consisting of soft skills training plus an internship, or a control group with no training or internship. We find strong and lasting effects of the program on personal skills acquisition and expectations, but results are markedly different for men and women. Shortly after completing the program, all participants reported increased expectations for improved employment and livelihoods. This result is reversed for male participants after three and a half years, potentially explained by the program's negative short-run labor market effects for that group. On the other hand, female participants experience improved labor market outcomes in the short run and exhibit substantially higher levels of personal skills after three and a half years; the women in the study became more optimistic and reported higher self-esteem. Men experienced no such benefits. Our results suggest that job-training programs of this type can be transformative – for women, life skills mattered and made a difference. But they can also have a downside if, as was the case for men in this study, training creates expectations that are not met. Although, overall, impacts are similar for the full treatment and the partial treatment, the positive impacts on soft skills for women, and the adverse impacts on labor outcomes and expectations for men are stronger for the full treatment.

Keywords: Job training; Vocational education; Field experiment; Youth employment; Cognitive and non-cognitive skills (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: J08 J24 J31 J68 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.1016/j.labeco.2020.101824

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