Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Arts




Shuey, Kim


This paper considers the income and health consequences of education-job mismatch for a cohort of workers. Education-job mismatch is common, but there is little research on how it is related to outcomes for workers. This study uses longitudinal data from the U.S. Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) to examine education-job mismatch over a significant portion of the work life course – early career, between ages 25 and 35, and mid-career. Findings suggest that gender, race/ethnicity, and occupational sector are important predictors of experiencing education-job mismatch. Men, African Americans, and workers in office-administrative occupations were more likely to experience mismatch. Overeducation was associated with poorer health and lower income levels, whereas undereducation was only related to poorer health. The health and income of those who were matched at one time was more like the outcomes of people matched at both time points, suggesting penalties associated with longer periods of mismatch.

Summary for Lay Audience

Most individuals hope to work in a job that utilizes their skills well; however, not everyone is able to achieve this. A recent university graduate may be frustrated after being forced to take a job waiting tables after unsuccessfully applying for jobs that would use their degree. A long-time manual labourer may feel overwhelmed after being promoted to management. Individuals who have a disconnect between their skills are defined as being mismatched between their job and skills. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to measure every skill a person has so this paper instead uses education to stand in for skills. The experience of having more or less education than one’s job requires can be stressful and can negatively affect one’s income.

Conceptualizing a person’s work life as a pathway, which individuals are most likely to end up on a path that includes being mismatched with their job with respect to their level of education? Is it possible to move from a mismatched path to a matched one and conversely, are matched people at risk of becoming mismatched? What are the effects of mismatch at different points on people’s income and health at mid-life? This paper examines data that follows a representative group of the U.S. population to observe individuals at two points in their life to answer these questions.

A person’s level of education and the occupational sector they work in are strongly associated with if and when they experience mismatch. African Americans are more likely than white people to start their career matched and then become mismatched. In terms of outcomes, the negative effects of mismatch seem to only appear for those who are mismatched at both times. Having more education than is required at both times or having too much and too little education at different points is associated with lower income. Having more education than required by the job at both observed time points is also associated with being in good rather than very good or excellent health. Having less than required schooling at both times is associated with being in fair or poor health.