Author ORCID Identifier


Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Michael Broda

Second Advisor

Dr. Lisa Abrams

Third Advisor

Dr. Jose Alcaine

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Adam Blandin


This study was conducted to better understand early labor market outcomes of higher education and the importance of the vertical and horizontal dimensions of higher education. Using College Scorecard’s institution and field of study levels data and a multilevel modeling approach, it estimated and ranked typical starting earnings associated with a large spectrum of bachelor’s and advanced degree programs, and discussed patterns, variations, and irregularities observed in the ranked earnings. This study also calculated advanced degree effects on the typical starting earnings associated with bachelor’s and advanced degree programs, and set precedence to systematically compare the effects of major, department, institution, and institutional characteristics across these degrees.

This study provided earnings information that can be used to improve students’ awareness on the varied labor market outcomes to different majors and degrees, and to facilitate their makings of economically rational major choice and degree attainment decisions. Results of this study also revealed how the relative importance of institution and field of study change from undergraduate to graduate degrees, and addressed how institutions’ governance structure, finance, selectivity, and student body diversity and inclusion affect program level outcomes. This study has implications ranging from the signal values of advanced degrees, field of study, and institution, to stratification and social closure in higher education, and to how institutions of different characteristics serve students.


© Qiao Liang

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