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Educational mismatch and promotions to managerial positions: a test of the career mobility theory

Philipp Grunau and Marco Pecoraro ()

Applied Economics, 2017, vol. 49, issue 12, 1226-1240

Abstract: Career mobility theory suggests that given a certain occupation, schooling improves upward mobility in terms of promotion and wage growth. We are the first to test the implications of this theory for over- and undereducation by means of direct information about promotions to managerial positions. Using German administrative data entailing an employer-reported – and hence objective – measure of educational requirements, we show that overeducated workers are indeed more likely to be promoted and that this career mobility advantage is more pronounced in the early stages of their working lives. By contrast, undereducated workers are less likely to be promoted to managerial positions. Moreover, in terms of wage growth, while overeducated workers benefit more, undereducated workers benefit less from promotions than their well-matched educational peers. Altogether, these findings strongly support the career mobility theory. Furthermore, by differentiating between internal and external promotions, we provide evidence that promotions are more likely for overeducated workers within the establishment, whereas the opposite applies for undereducated workers. This finding indicates the relevance of both over- and undereducation as signals of true ability to other employers.

Date: 2017
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