Grantee Research

Implications of Attrition from Graduate Education to Labor Market Outcomes

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



human capital investment theory, graduate schools, professional schools, employment, earnings premium, student attrition, student loan defaults


The economic return of higher education has been broadly studied for undergraduate and graduate degree recipients. However, no empirical study focuses on the economic outcomes of those who received some graduate education but left without earning a formal degree. Guided by human capital theory, the current study examines labor market outcomes – specifically, labor force participation, employment, earnings, and student loan repayment status – of a cohort of first-time baccalaureate degree recipients four years after earning their degrees. The study found no statistically significant difference in labor market outcomes between those who pursued a graduate/professional degree but left without earning one and those who never pursued graduate education. The findings were counter to the conventional understanding that more education or training results in better paying employment, thus calling for more scrutiny into application of the human capital investment perspective.