Examining the Role of Sociodemographic Characteristics in Postsecondary Non-completion and Labour Market Outcomes

Examining the Role of Sociodemographic Characteristics in Postsecondary Non-completion and Labour Market Outcomes was written by Ken Chatoor and Ryan Tishcoff, Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario.

Students who face barriers accessing postsecondary education also see lower completion rates and worse employment outcomes after graduation.

The strength of Ontario’s postsecondary education (PSE) system is linked to both students’ equitable access to colleges and universities and graduates’ successes in the labour market. While research has shown that access to PSE differs by sociodemographic characteristics, less is known about students’ experiences during and after their studies and subsequent entry into the labour market. New tools and datasets available through Statistics Canada allow researchers to explore student access and success in more complete ways.

Expanding on their 2023 report examining the connections between PSE non-completion rates and labour market outcomes, HEQCO partnered with the Social Research and Demonstration Corporation (SRDC) to examine PSE completion rates and labour market outcomes for students by key socioeconomic and economic characteristics, including Indigenous or racial identity, disability status and household structure. This study leveraged Statistics Canada’s Education and Labour Market Longitudinal Platform (ELMLP) and its various linkages. The analysis used three samples: full-time students who enrolled in diploma, certificate, or undergraduate programs at Ontario’s publicly assisted institutions between 2011 and 2014; a census sample from 2016; and a subset of students who received financial aid in their first year of study.

The findings highlighted significant disparities. Indigenous, Black and West Asian students had higher rates of non-completion and were among the lowest earners one year after leaving PSE. Similarly, students with disabilities faced higher non-completion rates over six years and experienced among the lowest earnings post-graduation. Additionally, household structure emerged as a critical factor, impacting both non-completion rates and earnings, particularly for students receiving financial aid.

These findings highlight that many students who encounter barriers entering PSE also face compounded challenges throughout their academic journey and beyond. They are less likely to graduate and less likely to see positive labour market outcomes, indicating a pressing need for targeted support and interventions to ensure equitable access and success for all students in Ontario’s PSE system.