Access to vocational education can boost income over the long term

Mikko Silliman, Hanna Virtanen:

In response to recent technological changes and the worsening outcomes of non-college-educated workers (Autor 2019), governments around the world are becoming more interested in whether different types of secondary education (vocational versus general) might play a role in providing young people the skills they need to succeed after they graduate (European Commission 2010, US Department of Education 2013, 2018). In stark contrast to the growing body of evidence on the impact of various fields of study in higher education (Altonji et al. 2012, Hastings et al. 2013, Kirkeboen et al. 2016), there exists a paucity of compelling causal evidence on the impact of secondary-school curricula on labour-market outcomes (Altonji et al. 2011, Hampf and Woessman 2017, Hanushek et al. 2011, 2017). 

Understanding the potential consequences of secondary-school curricula is particularly important given that this choice takes place before higher education and, for many people, is the highest level of education before entry into the labour market. Further, the availability of vocational secondary education is one of the largest differences among national education systems (Figure 1).