Labor market returns to MBAs from less-selective universities
Evidence from a field experiment during COVID-19
Bennett, C. T. (2023). Labor market returns to MBAs from less-selective universities: Evidence from a field experiment during COVID-19. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 42(2), 525-551. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1002/pam.22448
Master's degree enrollment and debt have increased substantially in recent years, raising important questions about the labor market value of these credentials. Using a field experiment featuring 9,480 job applications submitted during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, I examine employers’ responses to job candidates with a Master of Business Administration (MBA), which represents one-quarter of all master's degrees in the United States. I focus on MBAs from three types of less-selective institutions that collectively enroll the vast majority of master's students: for-profit, online, and regional universities. Despite the substantial time and expense required for these degrees, job candidates with MBAs from all three types of institutions received positive responses from employers at the same rate as candidates who only had a bachelor's degree—even for positions that listed a preference for a master's degree. Additionally, applicants with names suggesting they were Black men received 30 percent fewer positive responses than otherwise equivalent applicants whose names suggested they were White men or women, providing further evidence of racial discrimination in hiring practices.