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Educational Credentials and the Labour Market in Japan: A Cross-National Comparison with the United States and Britain

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The paper empirically examines four propositions which are derived from the thesis of "educational credentialism" in Japan using social survey data sets collected in Japan, the United States and Britain. The thesis implies that the opportunities for education are open to all the individuals in the society and that educational credentials are the major determinant of socio-economic achievement in Japanese society. The data analysis seems to support none of the propositions. Educational attainment is not independent of social background, and educational credentials are not necessarily more important than social background in labour market success in Japan. The socio-economic benefits of education are not particularly larger in Japan than in the United States and Britain, and the effect of college quality on labour market outcomes is not always stronger in Japan than in the United States. The paper concludes with a discussion on why the thesis of "educational credentialism" is so prevalent in Japan despite limited empirical support.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Sociology and east Asian Institute, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027, U.S.A.


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