An Economic Signaling Comparison of High School Diploma to General Education Development Certificate Holders in the United States Army Public Deposited

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Last Modified
  • March 20, 2019
  • Maxfield, Brooke
    • Affiliation: School of Education
  • Potential employees alert employers of their ability levels and occupational skills through education and education credentials during the hiring process. As such, education serves as a sorting mechanism for potential employees by their work-related characteristics such as perseverance, determination, ability, productivity, and so forth (Page, 2010; Riley, 1979). Military attrition studies of the 1980s found that education credentials were positively correlated to military retention and reinforced the premise of economic credentialing theory (National Library of Education, 1998). Therefore, the military developed a three-tier system that was based on the education credentials of new recruits. This system is still used by the Army to assess the qualifications of those who serve in the military. Employers also rely on employee characteristics viewed as useful in the work environment, referred to as education signaling. Education signaling allows for consideration of job performance covariates that go beyond schooling or credentials (e.g., aptitude-test scores, race, gender; Kjelland, 2008; Weiss, 1983, 1995). This study focuses on the influence of Army enlisted soldiers’ education credentials and signaling on their occupational success via retention and promotion. The sample consisted of over 150,000 non-prior service enlisted Army soldiers with traditional high school or general education credentials in three cohort groups over 4 years each, from 2004 to 2012. The data was analyzed by cross-tabulation and logistic regression. On the basis of the findings, the 1980s military retention studies were validated in terms of retention and promotion. Additionally, the results confirmed that the economic signaling that is present in the general labor market also exists in the meritocracy of the U.S. Army. Specifically, education credentials are a strong predictor for retention; AFQT scores are a strong predictor of promotion; and race of the soldier is related to both retention and promotion. The results support the Army’s use of both education credentials and AFQT scores for enlistment screening and the military tier system. Further research is necessary to reveal why race has an impact on Army retention and promotion, and to determine if aptitude tests are appropriate for hiring and promotion decisions in the general labor market.
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Oertwig, Sam
  • Schainker, Stanley
  • Gibbs, Brian
  • Ware, William
  • Houck, Eric
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2017

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