BPEA | 1993: Microeconomics 1

Improving Job Matches in the U.S. Labor Market

John Bishop
John Bishop Cornell University
discussants: Katharine Abraham
Katharine Abraham
Katharine Abraham Distinguished University Professor - University of Maryland

Microeconomics 1, 1993

EDUCATIONAL AND POLITICAL LEADERS are calling for improvements in the signaling and certification of worker skills. During the 1992 election campaign, President Bill Clinton called for “a national examination system to measure our students’ and schools’ progress” in meeting the national educational standards. In 1989 the Secretary of Labor’s Commission on Workforce Quality urged schools to “develop easily understood transcripts which at the request of students, are readily available to employers. These transcripts should contain documentable measures of achievement in a variety of fields as well as attendance records.” For educational reformers, better signaling of job skills is not an end in itself, but a means of inducing students, parents, teachers, and school boards to place greater priority on learning. It will not be easy, however, to design a system that certifies academic and occupational achievement; attracts employer participation; satisfies federal nondiscrimination requirements; and maximizes student incentives to learn, teacher incentives to set high standards, and parental incentives to demand and pay for a quality education.