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Education Research International
Volume 2012, Article ID 708989, 11 pages
Research Article

An Empirical Test of Alternative Theories of Educational Inequality

1Department of Sociology, University of Texas, 1 University Station A1700, Austin, TX 78712-0118, USA
2Department of Sociology, University of Kansas, Fraser Hall, Room 710, 1415 Jayhawk Boulevard, Lawrence, KS 66045-7556, USA
3Department of Sociology, Portland State University, P.O. Box 751, Portland, OR 97207-0751, USA

Received 4 April 2012; Accepted 2 October 2012

Academic Editor: Alex W. H. Chan

Copyright © 2012 Arthur Sakamoto et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


A classic issue in education centers on the nature of the relationship between schooling and labor market outcomes. Three general theories of this relationship are the human capital view, the market signal view, and the credentialist view. All three approaches predict a positive association between education and wages, but they differ in regard to its underlying causes. We argue that these theories may be fundamentally differentiated in terms of their implications for productivity, and we provide some relevant findings using productivity data for US manufacturing industries from 1976 to 1996. The results most strongly support the market signal view which emphasizes the association between productivity and relative educational attainment due to the role of the latter in certifying more reliable and trainable workers.