De Economist

, Volume 167, Issue 1, pp 1–21 | Cite as

Unemployment or Overeducation: Which is a Worse Signal to Employers?

  • Stijn BaertEmail author
  • Dieter Verhaest


This study estimates the stigma effect of unemployment and overeducation within one framework. We conduct a randomised field experiment in which we send out trios of fictitious job applications, from male candidates with no relevant work experience, to real vacancies. One candidate graduated just a few months before the application, the two others graduated a year earlier and had been unemployed or underemployed since that time. By monitoring the subsequent callback, we find evidence of a larger stigma effect of unemployment than overeducation. The stigma effect of overeducation is found to occur for permanent contract jobs but not for temporary ones.


Unemployment signalling Overeducation signalling Transitions in youth 

JEL Classification

J24 J60 C93 

Supplementary material

10645_2018_9330_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (118 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 118 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ghent University, University of Antwerp, Université catholique de Louvain, GLO, IMISCOE and IZAGhentBelgium
  2. 2.KU Leuven (Brussels Campus) and Ghent UniversityBrusselsBelgium

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