Focusing on four opportunity occupations that have not historically required a four-year college degree — computer user support specialists, registered nurses, retail sales supervisors, and executive secretaries — this paper seeks to understand why employers’ preferences for college-educated candidates vary dramatically across metro areas. After controlling for the characteristics of the jobs themselves, the research suggests that employers’ preferences for a bachelor’s degree are higher where recent college graduates are relatively more numerous, where wages are higher, in larger metro areas, and in the Northeast. In these types of markets, workers with lower levels of formal education qualify for relatively fewer jobs than is the case in other regional economies.

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