Higher education advances: Examining predictors of graduate school enrollment, employers’ perceptions of master’s degrees, and contingent faculty unionization
Bennett, Christopher Troy
This dissertation features three studies that span several topics linked to graduate education: the predictors of graduate school enrollment, the job prospects for master’s recipients, and unionization within academia. In the first study, I use logistic regression to identify the extent to which certain background characteristics are associated with a student’s odds of graduate school enrollment. In a departure from some prior research, I find that bachelor’s recipients whose parents earned graduate degrees had higher odds of enrolling in such programs themselves (even after controlling for other factors), potentially pointing to an intergenerational accumulation of advantage. In the second study, I conducted a field experiment to assess employers’ perceptions of master’s degrees from three types of broad-access institutions (i.e., for-profit, online, and regional institutions). Based on 9,480 applications to business-related job openings that required at least a bachelor’s degree, I find that employers were no more likely to offer an interview callback to candidates with any of the three broad-access master’s degrees than they were to candidates with only a bachelor’s degree—despite the substantial financial costs and time required to complete such master’s degrees. I also find that employers offered 30% fewer callbacks to applicants whose names suggested they were Black men than they did to applicants whose names suggested they were White men and women, providing additional evidence of ongoing labor market discrimination. Finally, the third study uses a discrete-time survival analysis to examine the relationship between institution- and state-level attributes and the likelihood that a college or university holds an election for a contingent faculty union. This study suggests that factors positively associated with contingent faculty unionization votes include being located in a state with a more liberal state legislature and the number of other academic institutions in the state that previously held union certification elections for contingent faculty. Collectively, these studies contribute to literatures examining who enrolls in graduate degree programs, how students fare in their job search following receipt of a master’s degree, and what workplace conditions some graduate degree recipients experience.