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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Lower level qualifications as a stepping stone for young people




Lower-level qualifications as a stepping stone for young people

National Centre for Vocational Education Research
 National Centre for Vocational Education Research, 2012
With the exception of cover design, artwork, photographs, all logos, and any other material where copyright is owned by a third party, all material presented in this document is provided under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/au>.
This document should be attributed as Oliver, D 2012, Lower-level qualifications as a stepping stone for young people, NCVER, Adelaide.
The National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) is an independent body responsible for collecting, managing and analysing, evaluating and communicating research and statistics about vocational education and training (VET).
NCVER’s in-house research and evaluation program undertakes projects which are strategic to the VET sector. These projects are developed and conducted by NCVER’s research staff and are funded by NCVER. This research aims to improve policy and practice in the VET sector.
The views and opinions expressed in this document are those of NCVER and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Government or state and territory governments.
ISBN         978 1 922056 01 6
TD/TNC   109.17
Published by NCVER, ABN 87 007 967 311
Level 11, 33 King William Street, Adelaide SA 5000
PO Box 8288 Station Arcade, Adelaide SA 5000, Australia
P +61 8 8230 8400   F +61 8 8212 3436   E ncver@ncver.edu.au   W <http://www.ncver.edu.au>
 

About the research


Damian Oliver, National Centre for Vocational Education Research

Lower-level qualifications (certificate I and II programs) provide little or no immediate return to the individual in terms of increased wages. However, lower-level qualifications are intended to prepare students who would otherwise not be capable of enrolling in and completing a higher-level qualification or making a successful transition into the workplace, because of their ability, social circumstances, or previous educational experiences. The aim of this report is to test whether lower-level qualifications serve a broader purpose by functioning as a ‘stepping stone’ to further study or into the labour market.
The critical part of the methodology is the selection of the comparison group. Using data from the Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (LSAY), the research matches certificate I and II graduates to other young people who share similar characteristics but who have neither completed nor are undertaking study or training at a higher level. The report compares their further study, training, employment and overall wellbeing outcomes two years after graduation and at age 26. The findings do not relate to certificate I or II qualifications completed as part of an apprenticeship or traineeship.
§  Two years after completing a certificate I or II qualification, young males are more likely to have undertaken an apprenticeship or traineeship, when compared with other individuals with similar background characteristics.
§  After two years, young female certificate I and II graduates are more likely to be employed and to have undertaken an apprenticeship or traineeship when compared with other similar females.
§  At age 26, the benefits of completing a certificate I or II qualification are still apparent for males but at the same age, females in the control group have caught up to their counterparts who are certificate I and II graduates.
§  The benefits of completing a certificate I or II qualification are strongest amongst the most disadvantaged learners within the pool of certificate I and II graduates.

Tom Karmel
Managing Director, NCVER



Tables                                                                                                      6
Introduction                                                                                               7
Background                                                                                               9
Methodology                                                                                            11
Data                                                                                                    11
Constructing the control and treatment groups                                          11
The propensity scores                                                                           13
Results                                                                                                    15
Outcomes after two years                                                                       15
Discussion                                                                                                19
References                                                                                              21
Appendices
A                                                                                                        22
B                                                                                                        24

Tables

1       Estimated completion rates for qualifications at certificate I and
above, commencing 2007                                                                 
10
2       Treatment and control group counts by wave                                       13
3       Summary of outcomes after two years in the treatment and control
groups (males)                                                                                 
15
4       Summary of outcomes after two years in the treatment and control
groups (females)                                                                              
16
5       Summary of outcomes at age 26 in the treatment and control
groups (males)                                                                                 
17
6       Summary of outcomes at age 26 in the treatment and control
groups (females)                                                                              
17
7       Average treatment effect after two years for most disadvantaged
and least disadvantaged graduates (males)                                         
18
8       Average treatment effect after two years for most disadvantaged
and least disadvantaged graduates (females)                                      
18
9       Summary of treatment effects of a certificate I/certificate II                 19
A1    Enrolments by qualification level and various characteristics,
students under 25 years, 2010 (%)                                                      
22
A2    Outcomes by AQF qualification level, students under 25 only,
2010 (%)                                                                                          
23
B1     Variables used in modelling completion of a certificate I or
certificate II
                                                                                      25
B2     Outcome variables                                                                             26
B3     Model estimates from the propensity scores regression, males (for outcomes after two years)    27
B4     Model estimates from the propensity scores regression, females
(for outcomes after two years)                                                          
28
B5     Average distribution of completing a certificate I/certificate II,
before and after propensity score matching (males)                            
30
B6     Mean maths and reading scores, before and after propensity score matching (males)    31
B7     Average distribution of completing a certificate I/certificate II,
before and after propensity score matching (females)                         
32
B8     Mean maths and reading scores, before and after propensity score matching (females) 33

Introduction

A number of studies have consistently shown that while higher-level vocational education and training (VET) qualifications generate positive economic returns, the economic benefit for an individual completing a lower-level qualification is negligible (Long & Shah 2008; Leigh 2008; Karmel & Nguyen 2007; Ryan 2002). However, these studies have typically been careful in their conclusions not to completely dismiss the value of completing a lower-level certificate, noting that this may be a ‘stepping stone’ or springboard to further study (see, for example, Long & Shah 2008, p.42; Harris, Rainey & Sumner 2006) or have other less tangible benefits, such as improved self-esteem or foundations skills like literacy and numeracy (Dawe 2004). The underlying assumption is that certificate I and II programs prepare students who would otherwise not be capable of enrolling in and completing a higher-level qualification or making a successful transition into the workplace, because of their ability, social circumstances, or previous educational experiences.
The purpose of this report is to examine whether, in the absence of immediate positive economic returns, certificate I and II programs really do provide a springboard to higher study, aid the transition into the workforce, or improve general wellbeing. In this report, we exclude traineeships that involve a certificate I or II qualification from our consideration of lower–level qualifications. Other studies have examined outcomes from traineeships (Karmel, Blomberg & Vnuk 2010; Cully & Curtain 2001). Instead, we concentrate on certificate I and II qualifications that do not involve a contract of training, such as foundation programs, bridging courses, pre-apprenticeships and pre-vocational courses.
Lower–level qualifications are designed and promoted as being targeted toward disadvantaged or discouraged learners, yet we find that a sizeable proportion of lower-level VET students display characteristics that suggest they are neither particularly disadvantaged nor discouraged. Using data from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) National VET Provider Collection, we also find that completion is very important in determining whether or not a certificate I or II qualification confers any benefit, especially in relation to further study. Poor targeting could obscure positive outcomes from lower-level qualifications among the type of students for whom they are intended.
When we turn to data from the Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (LSAY), we find further confirmation that young people who complete lower-level VET qualifications are not so different from other young people. The broad profile of lower-level VET graduates in the LSAY sample means that, based on their characteristics, some of these graduates could have just as easily completed an apprenticeship or traineeship, some a university qualification, while others most resemble young people who have not completed any post-school qualification. Therefore we restrict the scope of the control group to focus on young people who have the most to gain from completing a lower-level qualification. Using the information on who completes a lower-level qualification, we match each certificate I or II graduate with someone who hasn’t completed a certificate I or II (or any other post-school qualification) but who shares similar background characteristics. We do this using an econometric technique called propensity score matching.
When certificate I and certificate II graduates are paired with similar non-graduates, we find that after two years both males and females are more likely to have completed or be undertaking an apprenticeship or traineeship. Females are also more likely to be employed and males are on average happier if they have completed a certificate I or certificate II. Over a slightly longer period, to age 26, the benefits for males of completing a certificate I or certificate II solidify, and males remain more likely to have completed or be undertaking an apprenticeship or traineeship and are more likely to have completed a certificate III or higher qualification. However, the benefits for females are not as apparent at age 26. We attribute this to the different occupational labour markets and training paths typically open to males and females.
The structure of this report is straightforward. The following section provides background on lower-level qualifications, including their place in the qualifications framework, the characteristics of students who undertake them, completion rates and the pay-offs from completion. Next, we provide an explanation of how we have constructed our treatment and control groups and a brief, non-technical overview of the propensity score matching methodology. In the results section, we compare the treatment and control groups against a range of further study and labour market outcomes. We conclude with a discussion of the results and some of the policy implications.


Background

Within the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF), lower-level qualifications (certificates I and II) exist to provide individuals with a path to further study or entry into the workforce. The purpose of a certificate I is to equip individuals with ‘basic functional knowledge and skills to undertake work, further learning and community involvement’ (AQF Council 2011, p.25). A certificate II ‘qualifies individuals to undertake mainly routine work and as a pathway to further learning’ (AQF Council 2011, p.28). The typical volume of learning for both a certificate I and a certificate II is between six months and a year full-time, although it may be possible to complete particular courses more quickly.
The current Australian Qualifications Framework introduced ten levels of learning and certificates I and II correspond to the first two levels. Certificate I and II qualifications are by definition at a lower level than other VET qualifications and higher education qualifications. There is no formal equivalence in the framework between certificate I or II qualifications and the Senior Secondary Certificate of Education (commonly known as Year 12). This was a deliberate decision of the council, in recognition that Year 12 may fit within any of a number of levels, depending on the subjects chosen by the individual student. Lim and Karmel (2011) support this decision. They found that compared with Year 12, a certificate II does not produce equivalent further study or employment outcomes and it is questionable whether even a certificate III can be considered a vocational equivalent to Year 12.
Data from the National VET Provider Collection shows a sharp division between lower-level qualifications and higher-level qualifications, even among enrollees under the age of 25 years. Compared with young people enrolled in higher-level VET qualifications, young people enrolled in certificate I and II qualifications are typically younger, more likely to be an early school leaver, more likely to be Indigenous and more likely to have a disability. Half of all enrolments in certificate I and II programs are from students still attending school. Where students participating in VET in Schools are eligible to complete an AQF qualification, it will typically be at the certificate I or II level. Of those who are not at school, most are early school leavers (although a third of certificate II students have completed Year 12). Appendix A contains more detail on the characteristics of certificate I and II students.
Fewer than one in five certificate II students and one in 20 certificate I students are enrolled as part of an apprenticeship or traineeship. More common within lower-level certificates is the pre-apprenticeship, a course designed as a pathway into an apprenticeship, particularly in the traditional trades. Foley and Blomberg (2011, p.22) estimate that most (58%) pre-apprenticeship activity is at the certificate II level, corresponding to approximately 38 000 course enrolments in 2009, predominantly in the engineering and related technologies field of education. Most of the remaining pre-apprenticeship activity (39.4% or approximately 26 000 enrolments in 2009) is at the certificate I level. Most certificate I pre-apprenticeships are in the architecture and building field of education. Based on data from the 2010 National VET Provider Collection (author’s calculations), pre-apprenticeships account for one in three (32.6%) certificate I enrolments and one in five (20.3%) certificate II enrolments.

Bearing this in mind, it is not sufficient just to commence a lower-level qualification — completion really matters. Recent research by NCVER (Karmel & Fieger 2012) indicates that certificate I and II students who complete their qualification are 2.82 times more likely to enrol in further study than those who do not complete. This difference is much larger than for certificate III and IV students (2.09) and diploma and above students (1.65). Likewise, certificate I and II students are more likely to be employed if they complete their qualification. Further, the completion pay-off in terms of employment after training is higher among certificate I and II students (1.25) than certificate III and IV students (1.23) and diploma and above students (1.12). However, fewer than one in four students commencing a certificate II qualification in 2007 completed the qualification. Fewer than one in five students commencing a certificate I qualification in 2007 completed. As table 1 shows, the proportion is higher when the population is restricted to students aged 25 years and under and without a post-school qualification, but the completion rates for certificate I or II qualifications are consistently lower than those for other qualification levels.
AQF qualification
Estimated qualification completion rate
All students
Full-time students aged 25 years and under, with no post-school qualifications
Certificate I
17.2
30.3
Certificate II
21.2
30.1
Certificate III
32.5
42.0
Certificate IV
31.4
32.4
Diploma and above
32.6
36.5
Total
27.2
35.6
Source: NCVER (2011b, tables 3 and 4).
Low completion rates are a persistent problem. Evidence from previous NCVER research (Stanwick 2005) is that only about 40% of certificate II graduates and 28% of certificate I graduates under 25 years of age went on to complete a further qualification at the same or higher level.
Therefore, the treatment we are most interested in is completion of a certificate I or II qualification. Because of the limitations of the data sources, existing studies have not been able to identify the characteristics of certificate I and II graduates who do complete a further qualification, or compare the outcomes over time for certificate I and II graduates with other young people with similar characteristics. This project is able to overcome the limitations by using LSAY data from cohorts from the 1995 (Y95) and 1998 (Y98), which we do in the next section.


Methodology

Having established that young people who undertake and complete lower-level qualifications differ from other young people, we cannot simply compare the outcomes of certificate I and certificate II graduates with other young people who do not share the same background. To do so would ignore the influence of family background, academic ability and personal attributes. We need some way of taking into account the characteristics of certificate I and II graduates. To do that, we use an econometric technique called propensity score matching.
Propensity score matching is an attempt to unlock the counterfactual by matching each person who has undergone the treatment (completing a certificate I or II) with someone who has similar characteristics but who has not undergone the treatment, and then comparing the outcomes for the two groups. Propensity score matching is well suited in situations like the current one, where there is a relatively small proportion of cases that have undergone the treatment and a large pool of diverse cases that have not.
To set up the propensity score matching requires preparation, which is described in the following sections. First, the LSAY data are described, with a breakdown of the treatment and control categories. Next, the propensity scores are calculated and presented. Once we have the propensity scores, we describe the technique for finding suitable matches. Once a matched sample that is balanced on the relevant background characteristics is in place, we then compare the average outcomes for the two groups.

Data

The results presented in the background section drew on the National VET Provider Collection and the NCVER Student Outcomes Survey. LSAY is a good complement to this. LSAY is a longitudinal study that first surveys students (in the case of the Y95 and Y98 cohorts) in Year 9 and interviews them successively for a further 11 years. At the end of the survey, the median age of respondents is 26. In the first wave of the survey, students undertake a short test of their reading and mathematics ability. They also complete questions relating to their family background. We combine data from the Y95 and Y98 cohorts, the two most recent complete LSAY cohorts. Combining two cohorts maximises the number of responses, which is especially important considering the low proportion of young people completing lower-level certificates.

Constructing the control and treatment groups

We are interested in the role of certificate I and II programs as pathways into further study and employment. As we saw in the previous section, completing a certificate I or II greatly increases the likelihood of commencing another qualification. We therefore examine the first qualification completed by participants after leaving school, up to age 26, when the survey ends. (For Y95 and Y98 cohorts, LSAY did not collect information on qualifications completed by participants while still at school. This means that lower-level qualifications completed as part of VET in Schools activity are not within scope.)
To take account of timing, we construct a treatment and control group for each wave of each cohort. This important step means that the post-treatment periods are the same for the treatment and control groups. For each year, the treatment group comprises any respondent who completed a certificate I or II qualification in that year, provided the respondent had not previously completed any qualification and that the qualification was not completed as part of an apprenticeship or traineeship. We emphasise completion of a certificate I or II as the criterion for inclusion in the treatment group because of the previous research that has demonstrated that the payoff is large and also for the pragmatic reason that it is much more straightforward to identify graduates in the survey.
The control group comprises all other respondents present in that wave who:
§  are not in school
§  have not already completed a higher post-school qualification
§  are not currently studying for a higher qualification.
Implicit in this decision is the assumption that a certificate I and II qualification is inappropriate for anyone who could otherwise gain direct entry into a certificate III or higher qualification. In this sense, we have applied a narrower scope for the control group than if we had only excluded graduates of higher qualifications. We did this in response to the policy rationale of lower-level qualifications as a pathway to higher qualifications.
The control group also includes:
§  respondents who have completed a certificate I or II in that year as part of a traineeship, since traineeships may be thought of as an alternative pathway directly into employment
§  anyone who was studying a certificate I or II qualification in that year but who did not complete the qualification (provided they had not already completed a higher qualification).
The control group excludes respondents who complete a certificate I or II in a subsequent wave, to avoid any inappropriate matching because of sequencing issues in the survey.
The other restrictions are that there must be observations two years before completing the qualification (so that we can observe unemployment history before the respondent commenced the qualification) and observations two years after completing the qualification (so that we can observe outcomes). We can only observe a smaller number of cases at age 26 because, over the longer period, attrition further erodes the sample.
Table 2 shows the number of cases in the treatment and control groups before matching. The cases are broken down by wave. Both LSAY95 and LSAY98 began with a survey of Year 9 students and lasted for 12 waves in total. Because we want to observe outcomes two years after completing the lower-level qualification, there are no treatment or control cases from wave 11 or wave 12. There are no treatment cases from wave 1 or wave 2, because we include in our propensity score model a measure of unemployment experience two waves before completing the qualification (to be sure that any incidence of unemployment occurred before the qualification was commenced). Most of the treatment cases come from waves 4, 5, and 6. The control group for each wave is as already described. Respondents who remain in the survey but who completed a post-school qualification in a prior wave, or who complete a certificate III or higher qualification in the current wave, or who are studying for a certificate III or higher qualification in the current wave are excluded from the control group. The total number of cases declines over time because of sample attrition.



Wave
Treatment
Control
Excluded
Total1
3
47
971
8 183
9 201
4
95
1 276
7 104
8 475
5
179
3 787
4 834
8 800
6
96
4 033
3 958
8 087
7
57
3 044
3 661
6 762
8
22
2 386
3 338
5 746
9
20
2 024
3 118
5 162
10
13
1 715
2 948
4 676
Total – all waves in scope
529
19 236
37 144
56 909
Note:    1 Declining counts reflect the influence of attrition.
Source: LSAY, Y95 and Y98 cohorts.

The propensity scores

Propensity scores reflect the predicted probability of undergoing a treatment, in this case completing a certificate I or II as the first qualification after leaving school. The following variables were included in the model:
§  State
§  Size of local area
§  School type
§  Academic achievement and ability
-   Highest school level
-   Reading score
-   Maths score
-   Tertiary entrance rank (where applicable)
§  Family background & personal characteristics
-   Indigenous status
-   Disability status
-   Parental occupational status
-   Highest level of parental education
-   Students’ country of birth
-   Parents’ country of birth
§  Motivation factors
-   Views learning as fun
-   Treated fairly in class
-   Views self as successful student
-   Believes school is useful to later life
§  Unemployment history, t-2



§  Sample characteristics
-   Survey wave
-   Cohort.
We describe the statistical methodology for calculating the propensity scores and present the model estimates in appendix B. Background characteristics largely have the expected influence. For example, respondents who have one parent from a non-English speaking country are more likely to be certificate I or II graduates, as are male respondents whose parents work in jobs with low occupational status. Respondents with a disability are more likely to complete certificate I or II qualifications. We also find that academic achievement plays a role. For both males and females, lower maths scores and tertiary entrance ranks (where present) increase the probability of completing a certificate I or II. Females who do not think that school will help them later in life but who view themselves as successful students are more likely to complete a certificate I or II as their initial qualification than those who do not, once other factors are controlled for. Different factors are at play for males. Male students who think they were treated fairly in class but who do not view learning as fun are more likely to complete a certificate I or II than other respondents. For both males and females, a period of unemployment increases the likelihood of completing a certificate I or II qualification. Because of missing data on some covariates, the number of treatment cases with a propensity score reduces to 249 males and 236 females.
Our approach is to match the treatment group of certificate II completers to a sub-sample of the control group using the propensity scores. By matching cases based on the propensity scores, we assume that we have addressed selection issues, and any differences in outcomes can be attributed to the effect of the treatment. However, we have only controlled for observable covariates and not on any unobserved covariates. This is known as the conditional independence assumption.
Matching was performed using the Stata program by Leuven and Sianesi (2003). Callipers apply a restriction to the process by only allowing a match if the control’s propensity score is within a certain distance. Radius matching matches a treatment case to all control cases with propensity scores within a certain distance. We adopt the most straightforward matching method. Each treatment case is matched to its nearest neighbour in the control group, which is made up of all other respondents, whether they have completed a higher qualification or no qualification at all. A calliper of 0.008 is applied, meaning that a control case will not be matched to a treatment case if the difference between the propensity scores is greater than 0.008. The calliper value was selected as it is one-quarter of the standard deviation of the propensity scores (Rosenbaum & Rubin 1985). To simplify, the same calliper was used for all propensity score matches. Control cases are not replaced once matched. Matching was done separately for males and females, for each cohort and for each period. In total, 12 cases (seven males and five females) were off support, meaning that no remaining case in the control group had a propensity score within the calliper range. Removing treated cases off support removes results in 242 matched cases for males and 231 matched cases for females. Results are then weighted using the most recent weight for each treated case.
Following matching, the treatment sample and the matched control sample are much more balanced in relation to the observed covariates. As the chi-square tests in tables B5 and B7 and the t-tests in tables B6 and B8 demonstrate, only a few of the selection variables remain unbalanced. This was confirmed by chi-square tests, which show no significant differences between the treatment and control groups for 13 out of 15 covariates for the male propensity score model and three out of 15 covariates for the female propensity score model.

Results

Having achieved a balanced control sub-sample, we can now compare the outcomes for respondents who completed a certificate I or II after finishing school to the outcomes for respondents with similar characteristics. We look at three broad outcomes:
§  completion of a certificate III or higher qualification, completion of or current engagement in an apprenticeship or traineeship; this is a test of the ‘stepping stone’ idea
§  employment, hourly wage and occupational status; this is to determine if lower-level qualifications assist people make positive transitions into the labour market
§  overall life satisfaction; this tests whether lower-level qualifications might have less observable benefits such as boosted self-esteem and improved general wellbeing.
Outcomes are examined two years after completing the qualification, and at age 26.

Outcomes after two years

Because we have addressed selection bias using propensity score matching, it suffices to compare the outcomes using paired t-tests (with the results weighted to reflect attrition in the treatment category). Results are presented separately for males and females.
By nearly ten percentage points, male certificate I and certificate II graduates are more likely to have completed or be undertaking an apprenticeship or traineeship than other similar individuals. On average, they are also more satisfied with their life overall. A higher proportion of male certificate I/II graduates than other similar individuals are employed, and a higher proportion have completed or are undertaking a certificate III or higher qualification. (This is almost entirely due to the higher participation in apprenticeships.) Male certificate I and certificate II graduates are in jobs with similar occupational status but earn slightly less than other similar individuals. This finding is likely due to the effect of lower training wages for people undertaking an apprenticeship. Full details are shown in table 3.

Treatment
Control
Difference
T
P > |t|
Completed or undertaking a certificate III or higher1
29.5%
23.2%
6.3%
1.46
0.146
Completed or undertaking an apprenticeship or traineeship1
28.9%
19.2%
9.8%
2.35
0.019
Employed1
83.5%
82.1%
1.4%
0.35
0.726
Overall life satisfaction1
4.5
4.4
0.1
1.72
0.086
Average hourly wage2
$17.05
$20.19
-$3.14
-1.47
0.144
Occupational status3
31.9
31.4
0.5
0.29
0.770
Notes:   1 N = 242
             2 N = 178
             3 N = 191
Source: LSAY, Y05 and Y98 cohorts.
After two years, female certificate I and II graduates are also more likely to be undertaking or have completed an apprenticeship or apprenticeship when compared with other similar individuals, by a similar margin to males (8.4 percentage points). Female certificate I and II graduates are more likely to be employed (79.7% compared with 72.1% in the control group). There are also benefits in terms of completing or undertaking a certificate III or higher qualification, overall life satisfaction and hourly wage, but the differences are not statistically significant. Females in the treatment group work in jobs with slightly lower occupational status, but the difference is not statistically significant. The outcomes are summarised in table 4.

Treatment
Control
Difference
T
P < |t|
Completed or undertaking a certificate III or higher1
31.0%
25.1%
5.9%
1.32
0.187
Completed or undertaking an apprenticeship or traineeship1
18.7%
10.3%
8.4%
2.20
0.028
Employed1
79.7%
72.1%
7.5%
1.69
0.092
Overall life satisfaction1
4.5
4.4
0.1
1.21
0.228
Average hourly wage
$28.03
$26.47
$1.56
0.16
0.871
Occupational status
36.0
38.3
-2.3
-1.04
0.300
Notes:   1 N = 231
             2 N = 142
             3 N = 154
Source: LSAY, Y05 and Y98 cohorts.

Outcomes at age 26

To assess whether the benefits of completing a certificate I or II are short-term or long lasting, we repeated the entire process (construction of treatment and control group, propensity score calculation, and matching) looking only at respondents who remain in the survey until age 26. Respondents are still matched on a year-by-year basis. Because of attrition, we have approximately half the number of treated cases available for matching.
Table 5 shows the results for males at age 26. The pathway into apprenticeship effect that was evident after two years has strengthened. By between 11 and 13 percentage points, males in the treatment group are more likely to have completed a certificate III or higher qualification, more likely to be undertaking a certificate III or higher qualification, and more likely to have completed or be undertaking an apprenticeship or traineeship. All three outcomes are related, since apprenticeships typically involve undertaking a qualification at certificate III level. There are small, positive non-significant differences between the treatment group and the control group in the proportion employed, and in their average life satisfaction and occupational status. As occurred in the results after two years, there is a small, negative non-significant difference in the average hourly wage, which can be easily explained by the lower training wages received by respondents currently undertaking an apprenticeship.




Treatment
Control
Difference
T
P > |t|
Completed a certificate III or higher1
32.0%
20.7%
11.3%
1.85
0.066
Completed or undertaking a certificate III or higher1
38.0%
25.0%
13.1%
2.17
0.032
Completed or undertaking an apprenticeship or traineeship1
30.2%
18.7%
11.5%
2.23
0.028
Employed1
92.2%
89.3%
2.9%
0.78
0.436
Overall life satisfaction1
4.5
4.5
<0.1
0.09
0.929
Average hourly wage2
$29.76
$31.65
-$1.89
-0.99
0.325
Occupational status3
39.0
37.1
1.9
0.77
0.444
Notes:   1 N = 126
             2 N = 99
             3 N = 114
Source: LSAY, Y05 and Y98 cohorts.
There is a very different picture looking at the results for females (table 6). The benefits that were present after two years have disappeared by age 26. On average, participation in the treatment group leads to poorer outcomes, although the differences are relatively small and only in one instance (occupational status) does the difference approach conventional levels of statistical significance. However, the reason for the difference between the two sets of results is because females in the control group have ‘caught up’ and now have employment and further education and training outcomes that are comparable with females who complete lower-level qualifications. This suggests that over time, a variety of alternative paths are open to females to improve their education and labour market chances.

Treatment
Control
Difference
T
P < |t|
Completed a certificate III or higher1
36.3%
38.6%
-2.3%
-0.40
0.690
Completed or undertaking a certificate III or higher1
41.3%
46.0%
-4.7%
-0.81
0.421
Completed or undertaking an apprenticeship or traineeship1
16.9%
14.1%
-2.8%
-0.59
0.554
Employed1
80.0%
81.2%
-1.1%
-0.18
0.854
Overall life satisfaction1
4.5
4.6
-0.1
-1.07
0.286
Average hourly wage
$25.90
$31.84
-5.94
-1.50
0.139
Occupational status
43.1
48.4
-5.3
-1.73
0.087
Notes:   1 N = 130
             2 N = 70
             3 N = 88
Source: LSAY, Y05 and Y98 cohorts

Distribution

To gauge for whom certificate I and II qualifications have the greatest impact, we devised a simple experiment. We took the matched sample for looking at outcomes and ranked it by the propensity score of the treated cases. We then divided into two, splitting the top 50% (those most likely to complete a certificate I or certificate II, based on their background characteristics), and the bottom 50% (those least likely to complete a certificate I or certificate II). Recall that there was a range of characteristics that predicted whether someone would complete a certificate I or certificate II, but the strongest across both sexes included lower maths scores, lower tertiary entrance rank (where present), having a disability, having one parent from a non-English speaking country and experiencing unemployment before undertaking the qualification. Splitting the sample in this way provides an indication of whether the boost from completing a certificate I or certificate II is larger for these individuals, which would suggest targeting qualifications could lead to more efficient policy outcomes.
The results, shown in tables 7 and 8, provide partial support for the targeted thesis. However, the results further confirm that the benefits are experienced differently for males and females. For males, the benefit is primarily related to further participation in training through apprenticeships. For females, the employment benefit is stronger among those most likely to complete a certificate I or certificate II, whereas the training pathway is more evenly distributed.

Most disadvantaged4
Least disadvantaged4
Completed or undertaking a certificate III or higher1
11.6%*
8.4%
Completed or undertaking an apprenticeship or traineeship1
14.6%*
4.8%
Employed1
1.7%
1.0%
Overall life satisfaction1
0.1
0.1
Average hourly wage2
-$2.79
-$3.50*
Occupational status3
1.9
-0.9
Notes:   1 N = 121
             2 N = 96
             3 N = 89
             4 ‘Most disadvantaged’ category comprises the top 50% of treated cases, ranked by propensity score.
   ‘Least disadvantaged” comprises the bottom 50% of treated cases, ranked by propensity score.
             * p < 0.1
Source: LSAY, Y05 and Y98 cohorts.

Most disadvantaged4
Least disadvantaged4
Completed or undertaking a certificate III or higher1
5.5%
6.4%
Completed or undertaking an apprenticeship or traineeship1
9.1%*
7.3%
Employed1
12.8%**
6.9%
Overall life satisfaction1
0.1
<0.1
Average hourly wage2
$4.40
-$2.12
Occupational status3
-2.3
-2.8
Notes:   1 N = 116
             2 N = 77
             3 N = 71
             4 ‘Most disadvantaged’ category comprises the top 50% of treated cases, ranked by propensity score.
   ‘Least disadvantaged” comprises the bottom 50% of treated cases, ranked by propensity score.
             * p < 0.1
             ** p< 0.05
Source: LSAY, Y05 and Y98 cohorts.


Discussion

Most of the evidence published to date has shown poor outcomes for certificate I and II graduates. To overcome some of the limitations of previous studies, we used propensity score matching to test the treatment effect of a certificate I or certificate II qualification. However, we have also constructed a very narrow control group, excluding anybody who has completed a certificate III or higher qualification as well as anybody who is already studying for a qualification at certificate III level or above.
Table 9 summarises the treatment effects of certificate I and certificate II qualifications for young people. Initially, both males and females exhibit generally positive outcomes after completing a certificate I or certificate II. However, by age 26, the gap between the treatment group and the control group remains for males but has disappeared for females.
Outcome
After two years
At age 26
Males
Females
Males
Females
Completed a certificate III or higher
NA
NA
+
-
Completed or undertaking a certificate III or higher qualification
+
+
+
-
Completed or undertaking an apprenticeship or traineeship
+
+
+
-
Employed
+
+
+
-
Hourly wage
-
+
-
-
Occupational status
+
-
+
-
Life satisfaction
+
+
+
-
Note:    Shading indicates statistically significant difference (p<0.1).
Thus, in the longer run we see positive outcomes for males undertaking lower-level qualifications but the benefits are not apparent for females. We suggest that lower-level qualifications work as a pathway into apprenticeships in the traditional trades. This not only explains the large difference at age 26 between the treatment and control groups in the proportion of males undertaking or having completed an apprenticeship but also the proportion who have completed or are undertaking a certificate III or higher qualification (since apprenticeships in the traditional trades are typically at the certificate III level).
In the short-term, outcomes for females are improved by completing a certificate I or certificate II qualification. Two years after completing the qualification, female certificate I and certificate II graduates are more likely to be employed and are more likely to be undertaking or have completed an apprenticeship or traineeship. By 26 years, this benefit has disappeared, not because outcomes for females in the treatment group deteriorate but because females in the control group catch up. We suggest this reflects the multiple paths into occupations typically held by females, such as traineeships, direct entry into VET study at higher levels and employment without any further post-school study. By age 26, the impact of these different paths has evened out. This finding is consistent with Karmel and Liu (2011), who found that the best pathway for females is clearly completion of Year 12 followed by university study, whether they have a relatively high or low academic orientation. It should be borne in mind that the labour market during the survey period (1995—2006 for the Y95 cohort and 1998—2009 for the Y98 cohort) was relatively strong. The employment benefits of lower-level qualifications for females could be more persistent during times of higher unemployment.
Overall, our findings suggest that lower-level qualifications offer distinctive benefits to young males and females, provided they do not have an alternative viable pathway into higher study or training. For males, the advantage conferred by lower-level qualifications is as a pathway into apprenticeships. The benefits are enduring, still apparent at age 26. For females, the benefits of lower-level qualifications appear more general and pre-vocational in nature. There is a short-term boost to employment levels (and participation in apprenticeships and traineeships) but the advantage is no longer apparent at age 26. At least in good economic times, alternative pathways for females (such as traineeships, direct entry into certificate III level study or higher, or finding employment without completing any post-school study) provide comparable outcomes over the longer-term.

 

References

AQF (Australian Qualifications Framework) Council 2011, Australian Qualifications Framework, AQF Council, Adelaide.
Cully, M & Curtain, R 2001, ‘New apprenticeships: an unheralded labour market program’, Australian Bulletin of Labour, vol.27, no.3, pp.204—15.
Dawe, S 2004, Moving on from enabling courses: why do some students remain in enabling courses? NCVER, Adelaide.
Foley, P & Blomberg, D 2011, Pre-apprenticeship training activity, NCVER, Adelaide.
Harris, R, Rainey, L & Sumner, R 2006, Crazy paving or stepping stones? Learning pathways within and between VET and higher education, NCVER, Adelaide.
Karmel, T, Blomberg, D & Vnuk, M 2010, The effectiveness of the traineeship model, NCVER, Adelaide.
Karmel, T & Fieger, P 2012, The value of completing a qualification, NCVER, Adelaide.
Karmel, T & Liu, S 2011, Which paths work for which young people? NCVER, Adelaide.
Karmel, T & Nguyen, N 2007, The value of completing a vocational education and training qualification, NCVER, Adelaide.
Leigh, A 2008, ‘Returns to education in Australia’, Economic Papers, vol.27, no.3, pp.233—49.
Leuven, E & Sianesi, B 2003, PSMATCH2: Stata module to perform full Mahalanobis and propensity score matching, common support graphing, and covariate imbalance testing, viewed November 2011, <http://ideas.repec.org/c/boc/bocode/s432001.html>.
Lim, P & Karmel, T 2011, The vocational equivalent to Year 12, NCVER, Adelaide.
Long, M & Shah, C 2008, Private returns to vocational education and training qualifications, NCVER, Adelaide.
McMillan, J & Jones, FL 2000, ‘The ANU3_2 scale: a revised occupational status scale for Australia’, Journal of Sociology, vol.36, no.1, pp.6480.
McMillan, J, Beavis, A & Jones, FL 2009, ‘The AUSEI06: a new socioeconomic index for Australia’, Journal of Sociology, vol.45, no.2, pp.123—49.
NCVER (National Centre for Vocational Education Research) 2011a, Australian vocational education and training statistics: student outcomes 2010, NCVER, Adelaide.
——2011b, Australian vocational education and training statistics: students and courses 2010, NCVER, Adelaide.
Rosenbaum, P 2002, Observational studies, Springer, New York.
Rosenbaum, P & Rubin, D 1985, ‘Constructing a control group using multivariate matched sampling methods that incorporate the propensity score’, The American Statistician, vol.39, no.1, pp.33—8.
Ryan, C 2002, Individual returns to vocational education and training qualifications: their implications for lifelong learning, NCVER, Adelaide.
Stanwick, J 2005, Australian Qualifications Framework lower-level qualifications: pathways to where for young people, NCVER, Adelaide.




Appendix A


Certificate I
Certificate II
Higher-level qual.
Student characteristics



Male
67.0
55.5
56.6
Female
32.8
44.4
43.3
Not known
0.2
0.1
0.1




20 to 24 years
20.7
20.1
49.1
19 years and under
79.3
79.9
50.9




Indigenous
15.0
7.6
3.1
Not indigenous
74.5
85.6
90.4
Not known
10.5
6.8
6.5




With a disability
11.3
6.1
4.4
Without a disability
58.2
67.1
86.0
Not known
30.5
26.8
9.6




Still attending school
50.5
49.6
11.1
Not attending school
43.1
45.7
82.4
Not known
6.4
4.7
6.5




Highest school level of those not at school:



Year 12
22.9
35.4
58.2
Year 11
12.2
14.3
13.5
Year 10
24.5
27.8
20.8
Year 9 or lower
29.5
17.2
3.8
Did not attend school
0.9
0.4
0.3
Not known
10.1
4.9
3.4




Course is part of an apprenticeship or traineeship
3.4
16.3
44.2
Course is not part of an apprenticeship or traineeship
96.6
83.7
55.8




Course characteristics



Field of study



03 - Engineering and related technologies
13.8
17.5
21.1
04 - Architecture and building
21.2
7.8
12.2
08 - Management and commerce
12.7
26.7
22.0
11 - Food, hospitality and personal services
13.5
21.2
11.6
12 - Mixed field programmes
29.8
8.5
2.3
All other fields of education
9.1
18.3
30.5




Course is part of a pre-apprenticeship
32.6
20.3
na
Course is not part of a pre-apprenticeship
67.4
79.7
na




Total (N)
141 475
401 122
1 182 722
Source: National VET Provider Collection 2010, custom data.



Qualification
Higher level
Lower level


Certificate II
Certificate I
Total
Employed before training




Employed
71.6
57.6
34.8
53.5
Not employed
25.8
40.0
62.2
44.0
Not stated
2.5
2.4
3.0
2.5
Employed after training




Employed
78.8
64.5
50.1
61.9
Not employed
19.1
34.1
46.4
36.3
Not stated
2.1
1.4
3.5
1.8
Employed or in further study




Emp or in FS
88.9
79.6
71.7
78.1
Not Emp or in FS
9.0
18.7
25.0
19.9
Not stated
2.1
1.7
3.3
2.0
Satisfied with overall quality of training




Agree
86.8
89.0
89.9
89.1
Disagree
4.6
3.6
1.6
3.2
Neither agree nor disagree
7.0
5.6
5.6
5.6
Not stated
1.7
1.9
2.9
2.1
Achieved reason for study




Wholly or partly
86.5
84.0
80.3
83.4
No
4.3
5.8
7.0
6.0
Don’t know yet
8.3
8.8
10.5
9.1
Not stated
0.9
1.4
2.2
1.5
Total
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
Total (N)
148 422
67 402
14 846
82 248
Source: NCVER 2010 Student Outcomes Survey, custom data.




Appendix B

Statistical methodology

The logistic model used to estimate the probability of completing a lower-level VET qualification follows Lim and Karmel (2011), who modelled Year 12 completion also using the Y95 and Y98 LSAY cohorts. Table B1 provides a summary of the variables entered into the model. In addition, the Y95 or Y98 cohort was entered as a random effect. The regression was weighted using the most recent weight calculated for each respondent.
The motivation items were selected on the following basis. In both cohorts, respondents were asked in wave one 20 items about how they felt about school. A factor analysis identified four separate factors:
§  the first associated with liking learning
§  the second associated with a positive view of self as student
§  the third associated with receiving fair treatment at school
§  the fourth associated with viewing school as useful for life as an adult.




Variable
Values
Background

State
ACT (reference category)

NSW 

Vic. 

Qld 

SA 

WA 

Tas.

NT
School type
Government

Catholic

Independent
Respondent’s highest school level
Year 10 or below

Year 11

Year 12
Parental occupational status
Measured based on ASCO, reported in wave 1, using ANU3 scale (McMillan & Jones 2000).
Higher score is taken. Results then divided into quartiles.
Fifth category comprises cases where there is no occupational status
(either because no parent is in the labour force or because of missing data).
Parents’ highest education level
4 Completed university

3 Technical or trade qualification

2 Completed secondary school

1 Some secondary school

9 Missing information from both parents
Students’ country of birth
1 if Australia

2 if another English speaking country

3 if a non-English speaking country
Parents’ country of birth
1 if neither parent born in a non-English speaking country

2 if one parent born in a non-English speaking country

3 if both parents born in a non-English speaking country
Indigenous
1 if Indigenous, 0 otherwise
With a disability
1 if has a disability, 0 otherwise
Size of local area:
1 Metropolitan

2 Regional

3 Rural or remote

9 Missing locality information
Ability

Reading score
Score between 0 and 20, measured in wave 1
Maths score
Score between 0 and 20, measured in wave 1
TER
Tertiary entrance rank (0–100)
TER missing
No TER, because respondent did not complete Year 12, was not otherwise eligible for a TER, or because TER is missing.
Motivation

Views learning as fun
Five-point scale between -2 and 2
Treated fairly in class
Five-point scale between -2 and 2
Views self as successful student
Five-point scale between -2 and 2
School is useful to later life
Five-point scale between -2 and 2
Unemployment history (t-2)
Respondent had at least one episode of unemployment in the 12-month period two years before the qualification could have been completed.
Notes:   ASCO = Australian Standard Classification of Occupations.



Table B2   Outcome variables
Variable
Values
Completed a certificate III or higher qualification
1 Completed a certificate III or higher qualification
0 Has not completed a certificate III or higher qualification
Completed or undertaking an apprenticeship or traineeship
1 Completed or undertaking an apprenticeship or traineeship
0 Has never commenced an apprenticeship or traineeship or commenced but did not complete
Employed
1 Employed
0 Not employed (unemployed or not in labour force)
Hourly wage
Deflated to 1995 dollars
Occupational status
ANU Occupational status scale based on ASCO (McMillan & Jones 2000) or ANZSCO (McMillan, Bevis & Jones 2009). Values range from 0 to 100.
Life satisfaction
Five-point scale. Response to question ‘How satisfied are you with … your life overall’.

The propensity scores

The logistic model used to determine the propensity scores is:
where  represents the design matrices for the intercept and the independent variables,  the regression co-efficients for the intercept and independent variables, , the design matrices for the random cohort factor, , represents the random regression co-efficients for cohort, further we assume , and , and . Further, we note that , that is,  and  are uncorrelated.
The probability of completing a certificate I or certificate II as the first qualification after leaving school is determined using:



Parameter
Categories
Estimate
Standard error
Pr > |z|
Intercept

-1.520
2.486
0.541
Time

-1.520
2.486
0.541
Time^2

-0.430
0.757
0.570
State
ACT
reference category

NSW 
0.708
0.168
<0.001

Vic. 
0.982
0.178
<0.001

QLD 
0.716
0.137
<0.001

SA 
0.905
0.078
<0.001

WA 
1.056
0.101
<0.001

Tas. 
0.634
0.432
0.142

NT
1.031
0.349
0.003
School type
Government
reference category

Catholic
-0.145
0.028
<0.001

Independent
-0.481
0.265
0.070
Highest school level
Year 12
reference category

Year 11
-0.319
0.284
0.260

Year 10 or below
-0.740
0.196
0.000
Reading score

0.029
0.019
0.115
Maths score

-0.081
0.003
<0.001
Tertiary entrance rank

-0.011
0.006
0.048
Missing tertiary entrance rank

-0.409
0.370
0.269
Parental occupational status
Bottom quartile
reference category

Second quartile
-0.003
0.121
0.979

Third quartile
-0.289
0.191
0.129

Top quartile
-0.334
0.097
0.001

None (unemployed or missing)
0.263
0.034
<0.001
Parents’ highest education level
University
reference category

Technical or trade qualification
0.104
0.092
0.255
  
Completed secondary school
0.323
0.110
0.003

Some secondary school
0.592
0.086
<0.001

No information available
-0.161
0.118
0.174
Students’ country or birth
Australia
reference category

Another English-speaking country
-0.464
0.224
0.038

Non-English speaking country
-0.794
0.343
0.021


0.521
0.246
0.034
Parents’ country of birth
Neither born in a non-English speaking country
reference category

One born in a non-English speaking country
0.494
0.069
<0.001
  
Both born in a non-English speaking country
0.228
0.457
0.619
Motivation factors
Views learning as fun
-0.134
0.001
<0.001

Treated fairly in class
0.130
0.077
0.090

Views self as successful student
-0.035
0.084
0.677

Thinks school will help with life as adult
0.043
0.037
0.248
Indigenous

-0.156
0.457
0.732
With a disability

0.731
0.122
<0.001
Size:
Metropolitan
reference category

Regional
0.318
0.052
<0.001
  
Rural or remote
0.415
0.111
<0.001

Missing location information
-0.064
0.202
0.752
Unemployed, t-2

0.861
0.082
<0.001



Parameter
Categories
Estimate
Standard error
Pr > |z|
Intercept

0.251
0.913
0.783
Time

-0.576
0.287
0.045
Time^2

0.019
0.022
0.389
State
ACT
reference category

NSW 
0.771
0.434
0.076

Vic. 
0.419
0.105
<.0001

QLD 
0.285
0.090
0.002

SA 
0.274
0.030
<.0001

WA 
0.588
0.077
<.0001

Tas. 
0.156
0.147
0.290

NT
0.347
0.200
0.083
School type
Government
reference category

Catholic
-0.384
0.011
<.0001

Independent
0.446
0.051
<.0001
Highest school level
Year 12
reference category

Year 11
-0.326
0.564
0.563

Year 10 or below
-0.565
0.402
0.160
Reading score

-0.021
0.019
0.261
Maths score

-0.050
0.025
0.047
Tertiary entrance rank

-0.010
0.001
<.0001
Missing tertiary entrance rank

-0.462
0.032
<.0001
Parental occupational status
Bottom quartile
reference category

Second quartile
-0.400
0.125
0.001

Third quartile
0.090
0.187
0.629

Top quartile
-0.307
0.005
<.0001

None (unemployed or missing)
0.219
0.493
0.656
Parents’ highest education level
University
reference category

Technical or trade qualification
-0.175
0.253
0.489
  
Completed secondary school
-0.348
0.040
<.0001

Some secondary school
0.091
0.095
0.336

No information available
-0.331
0.036
<.0001
Students’ country or birth
Australia
reference category

Another English-speaking country
0.080
0.190
0.676

Non-English speaking country
0.110
0.078
0.158


-0.439
0.577
0.447
Parents’ country of birth
Neither born in a non-English speaking country
reference category

One born in a non-English speaking country
0.284
0.091
0.002
  
Both born in a non-English speaking country
0.195
0.299
0.513
Motivation factors
Views learning as fun
0.042
0.036
0.247

Treated fairly in class
0.033
0.056
0.549

Views self as successful student
-0.153
0.024
<.0001

Thinks school will help with life as adult
0.198
0.046
<.0001
Indigenous

-0.430
0.036
<.0001
With a disability

0.215
0.057
0.000
Size:
Metropolitan
reference category

Regional
0.001
0.175
0.997
  
Rural or remote
0.043
0.090
0.637

Missing location information
-0.076
0.059
0.199
Unemployed, t-2

0.521
0.026
<.0001
Propensity score models (and matching routines) were re-estimated for those in employment only and with outcomes after two years, for all respondents in the treatment and control groups with outcomes at age 26, and for employed respondents only with outcomes at age 26. These were similar to the initial models. Details are available upon request to the author.



Sample balance

Demographic
Distribution
before matching (%)
P > Χ2
Distribution
after matching (%)
P > Χ2
State




ACT 
1.31
0.253
28.8
0.046
NSW 
2.50

56.1

Vic. 
3.20

56.3

QLD 
2.06

48.8

SA 
3.28

44.0

WA 
3.73

48.0

Tas. 
2.21

34.8

NT
2.86

19.1

Indigenous status




Non-indigenous
2.68
0.014
49.5
0.554
Indigenous
3.47

42.4

Disability status




Not with a disability
2.59
< 0.001
49.4
0.309
With a disability
6.52

40.4

Highest school level




Year 12
2.32
< 0.001
47.7
0.440
Year 11
3.31

51.2

Year 10 or below
3.39

54.4

TER status




TER
1.89
< 0.001
45.8
0.199
No TER
3.19

51.9

School type




Government
2.95
0.04
52.65
0.046
Catholic
2.33

45.0

Independent
1.41

34.1

Size of local area




Metropolitan
2.30
0.001
51.4
0.457
Regional
3.11

48.6

Rural or remote
3.14

51.4

Size information missing
3.05

28.5

Parents’ highest education level




Some secondary school
2.48
0.203
49.5
0.218
Secondary school
2.34

57.1

Trade or technical qualification
3.01

45.6

University qualification
2.73

45.6

Missing information for both parents
2.91

58.0

Parental occupational status




Bottom quartile
2.93
< 0.001
48.6
0.732
Second quartile
2.61

50.1

Third quartile
2.01

53.9

Top quartiles
1.95

43.5

Both parents missing occupational status
4.21

52.6






Demographic
Distribution
before
matching (%)
P > Χ2
Distribution
after
matching (%)
P > Χ2
Student’s country of birth




Australia
2.71
0.004
49.1
0.510
Another English speaking country
1.66

67.5

A non-English speaking country
1.21

47.7

Missing country of birth
4.71

59.9

Parents’ countries of birth




Neither born in a non-English speaking country
2.70
0.027
49.3
0.689
One parent born in a non-English speaking country
3.30

50.5

Both parents born in a non-English speaking country
2.23

56.6

Unemployment history




Period of unemployment, t-2
5.12
< 0.001
48.7
0.597
No period of unemployment, t-2
1.64

51.1


Before matching
After matching

Treatment
Control
p > |t|
Treatment
Control
p > |t|
Maths test
10.6
11.9
< 0.001
10.9
11.1
0.520
Reading test
11.5
12.0
0.056
11.6
12.0
0.267
TER (where recorded)
53.1
59.3
0.022
54.9
53.4
0.682



Demographic
Distribution
before matching (%)
P > Χ2
Distribution
after matching (%)
P > Χ2
State




ACT 
2.30
0.028
28.1
0.003
NSW 
4.14

59.0

Vic. 
2.85

57.3

QLD 
2.51

52.1

SA 
2.67

49.5

WA 
3.02

34.9

Tas. 
2.39

39.2

NT
2.39

24.1

Indigenous status




Non-indigenous
3.09
0.923
50.5
0.802
Indigenous
2.71

47.0

Disability status




Not with a disability
3.04
0.030
49.8
0.456
With a disability
5.05

60.4

Highest school level




Year 12
2.87
< 0.001
48.9
0.780
Year 11
2.96

51.4

Year 10 or below
3.87

52.6

TER status




TER
3.48
0.005
47.6
0.392
No TER
2.49

51.5

School type




Government
3.22
0.022
52.1
0.149
Catholic
2.03

48.2

Independent
3.76

39.1

Size of local area




Metropolitan
3.14
0.048
47.4
0.286
Regional
2.92

55.3

Rural or remote
3.17

51.2

Size information missing
2.79

25.9

Parents’ highest education level




Some secondary school
3.88
0.062
57.1
0.396
Secondary school
2.91

52.1

Trade or technical qualification
2.63

48.2

University qualification
3.22

44.6

Missing information for both parents
2.71

48.3

Parental occupational status




Bottom quartile
3.60
0.021
53.2
0.601
Second quartile
2.27

55.6

Third quartile
3.31

46.9

Top quartiles
2.33

46.2

Both parents missing occupational status
4.03

47.0






Demographic
Distribution
before
matching (%)
P > Χ2
Distribution
after
matching (%)
P > Χ2
Student’s country of birth




Australia
3.05
0.197
50.5
0.652
Another English-speaking country
3.31

58.2

A non-English speaking country
3.83

43.1

Missing country of birth
2.88

39.1

Parents’ countries of birth




Neither born in a non-English speaking country
2.92
< 0.001
51.2
0.487
One parent born in a non-English speaking country
3.74

49.8

Both parents born in a non-English speaking country
3.94

43.2

Unemployment history




Period of unemployment, t-2
2.46
< 0.001
54.6
0.023
No period of unemployment, t-2
4.60

44.9


Before matching
After matching

Treatment
Control
p > |t|
Treatment
Control
p > |t|
Maths test
10.5
11.4
< 0.001
10.7
11.4
0.045
Reading test
12.1
12.9
< 0.001
12.4
12.7
0.483
TER
57.6
61.0
0.169
59.9
57.6
0.518

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