Identifying Pathways to Employment for College Students

Does increased engagement with university career centers improve labor market outcomes among first-generation or students from low-income families attending elite universities?

Attending an elite university is typically regarded as a pathway to upward mobility, especially for first-generation students and those from low-income backgrounds, but this is not a guarantee. Research suggests that students who enter college with fewer resources than their more economically privileged peers may also be more likely to lack exposure to peers and mentors who can provide guidance and knowledge about the career search, rendering them “doubly disadvantaged” in the labor market. University career centers can improve student access to skills, resources, and job opportunities, but students who may need this support the most are also the least likely to utilize career services. In this study, Thakral and colleagues will conduct a randomized-controlled trial of three interventions to test whether they can improve the utilization of career center resources and labor market outcomes for doubly disadvantaged students. Regression analyses will test for effects between groups (i.e., first-generation status; parental education; public vs. private high school; peer networks; engagement in campus activities) within each of the 4 conditions and across the conditions on career center engagement, job applications (including characteristics of the jobs), and hiring outcomes. Findings will have immediate implications for the USC Career Center, and the team will also engage career centers across the country through an educational technology company with which the team has an existing relationship.