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March 2006
Vol. 7, no. 3

Perspectives on Labour and Income

Does it pay to go back to school?
Boris Palameta and Xuelin Zhang

  • Workers who return to school as adult students tend to do so at the non-university postsecondary level. Close to 90% of postsecondary certificates obtained by adult students were from institutions such as community colleges, and trade or vocational schools.
  • Workers who participated in adult education and obtained a postsecondary certificate generally registered higher earnings gains than their non-participating counterparts, even when factors such as initial wage, occupation, and firm size were taken into account.
  • Although younger, better-educated workers had higher participation rates, older, less-educated participants were just as likely to reap the benefits of certification. However, gains for older participants were restricted to those who stayed with the same employer, while younger participants benefited more if they switched employers.

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Boris Palameta is with the Income Statistics Divison. Xuelin Zhang is with the Business and Labour Market Analysis Division. Boris Palameta can be reached at (613) 951-2124, Xuelin Zhang can be reached at (613) 951-4295 or both at

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