Empirical Economics

, Volume 46, Issue 4, pp 1447–1471 | Cite as

The role of hard-to-obtain information on ability for the school-to-work transition

  • Barbara Mueller
  • Stefan C. Wolter


When information about the abilities of job seekers is difficult to obtain, statistical discrimination by employers may be an efficient strategy in the hiring and wage-setting process. In this article, we use a unique, longitudinal survey that follows the PISA 2000 students in their early educational and work–life careers. We find that a deviance in the PISA test scores from what one would have predicted based on easy-to-obtain observable characteristics influences the probability of succeeding in the transition from compulsory schooling to a firm-based apprenticeship significantly but in a non-symmetric way. Only those who had a test result below their predicted result have significantly lower chances of getting an apprenticeship. We also find evidence that the importance of hard-to-obtain information on ability is further revealed in the course of the apprenticeship.


Statistical discrimination School-to-work transition  PISA 

JEL Classification

I2 J24 J71 



The authors would like to thank the Transitions from Education to Employment Survey (TREE) consortium for the kind permission to use the TREE data. The authors also thank participants of the economics of education area conference of the CESifo network and especially Joop Hartog, the discussant, as well as the editor and two anonymous referees for helpful comments and advice.


  1. Aigner DJ, Cain GG (1977) Statistical theories of discrimination in labor markets. Ind Labor Relat Rev 30(2):175–187CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Altonji JG, Pierret CR (1997) Employer learning and the signaling value of education. In: Ohashi I, Tachibanak T (eds) Industrial relations, incentives and employment. Macmillan Press Ltd, London, pp 159–195Google Scholar
  3. Altonji JG, Pierret CR (2001) Employer learning and statistical discrimination. Q J Econ 116:313–350CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Arcidiacono P, Bayer P, Hizmo A (2010) Beyond signaling and human capital: education and the revelation of ability. Am Econ J Appl Econ 2(4):76–104CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Arrow KJ (1973) The theory of discrimination. In: Ashenfelter O, Rees A (eds) Labour markets. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJGoogle Scholar
  6. Bauer TK, Haisken-DeNew JP (2001) Employer learning and the returns to schooling. Labour Econ 8(2):161–180CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bertschy K, Cattaneo MA, Wolter SC (2009) PISA and the transition into the labour market. LABOUR 23(1):111–137Google Scholar
  8. Farber HS, Gibbons R (1996) Learning and wage dynamics. Q J Econ 111(4):1007–1047CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Galindo-Rueda F (2003) Employer learning and schooling-related statistical discrimination in Britain. IZA discussion paper no. 778, Institute for the Study of Labor, BonnGoogle Scholar
  10. Haeberlin, U, Imdorf C, Kronig W (2004) Chancenungleichheit bei der Lehrstellensuche: Der Einfluss von Schule, Herkunft und Geschlecht. NFP43 Synthesis 7. Bern/Aarau: NFP43/SKBFGoogle Scholar
  11. Hupka S, Sacchi S, Stalder BE (2006) Herkunft oder Leistung? Analyse des Eintritts in eine zertifizierende nachobligatorische Ausbildung anhand der Daten des Jugendlaengsschnitts TREE. Working paper. Basel: TREEGoogle Scholar
  12. Imdorf C (2006) The selection of trainees in small and medium-sized enterprises. Integration and exclusion of immigrant youth at the transitional stage between school and vocational training in Switzerland. Working paper (english version).
  13. Imdorf C (2009) Die betriebliche Verwertung von Schulzeugnissen bei der Ausbildungsstellenvergabe. Empir Paedagog 23(4):392–409Google Scholar
  14. Lange F (2007) The speed of employer learning. J Labor Econ 25(1):1–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Moser U (2004) Jugendliche zwischen Schule und Berufsbildung. Eine Evaluation bei Schweizer Grossunternehmen unter Berücksichtigung des internationalen Schulleistungsvergleich PISA. h.e.p Verlag, BernGoogle Scholar
  16. Muehlemann S, Schweri J, Winkelmann R, Wolter SC (2007) An empirical analysis of the decision to train apprentices. LABOUR Rev Labour Econ Ind Relat 21(3):419–441Google Scholar
  17. Neuenschwander MP, Malti T (2009) Selektionsprozesse beim Uebergang in die Sekundarstufe I und II. Z Erzieh 12(2):216–232CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. OECD (2001) Knowledge and skills for life. First results from the OECD programme for international student assessment (PISA) 2000. OECD, ParisGoogle Scholar
  19. OECD (2002) PISA 2000 technical report. OECD, ParisGoogle Scholar
  20. Phelps ES (1972) The statistical theory of racism and sexism. Am Econ Rev 62(4):659–661Google Scholar
  21. Siegenthaler M (2011) Can a standardised aptitude test predict the training success of apprentices? Evidence from a case study in Switzerland. Emp Res Vocat Educ Train 3(2):105–128Google Scholar
  22. Spence M (1973) Job market signalling. Q J Econ 87(3):355–374CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Stalder BE (2011) Das intellektuelle Anforderungsniveau beruflicher Grundbildungen in der Schweiz. Ratings der Jahre 1999–2005. Institut fuer Soziologie der Universitaet Basel/TREE, BaselGoogle Scholar
  24. Stalder BE, Schmied E (2006) Lehrvertragsaufloesungen, ihre Ursachen und Konsequenzen. Ergebnisse aus dem Projekt LEVA. Bildungsplanung und Evaluation der Erziehungsdirektion des Kantons Bern, BernGoogle Scholar
  25. Topel RH, Ward MP (1992) Job mobility and the careers of young men. Q J Econ 107(2):439–479CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Wolter SC, Ryan P (2011) Apprenticeship. In: Hanushek EA, Machin S, Woessmann L (eds) Handbook of the economics of education, vol 3. Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp 521–576Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Swiss Federal Institute for Vocational Education and TrainingBernSwitzerland
  2. 2.University of BernBernSwitzerland
  3. 3.CESifoMunichGermany
  4. 4.IZABonnGermany

Personalised recommendations