Urzúa, Sergio

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Labor Markets, Social Behavior, Schooling Decisions, Education Systems, Development Economics
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Last updated: January 31, 2023
Sergio Urzúa is an Associate Professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Maryland. He is also an International Research Fellow at Clapes-UC, Research Associate at the NBER, Research Fellow at IZA, and Research Director of RIDGE. His research focuses on labor economics, development and applied econometrics. Sergio has published widely in leading peer-reviewed journals (more than 40 publications) and is a former chief-editor of Economia. He has published three books, including At a Crossroads: HigherEducation in Latin America and the Caribbean. He currently coordinates the LACEA’s Labor Network. He has served as member of the steering committee of the NBER Children’s program and member of LACEA’s executive committee. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 2007. He teaches in the areas of Labor Economics and Applied Econometrics. 

Publication Search Results

Now showing 1 - 4 of 4
  • Publication
    The Fast Track to New Skills: Short-Cycle Higher Education Programs in Latin America and the Caribbean
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2021-09-29) Ferreyra, María Marta; Dinarte, Lelys; Urzúa, Sergio; Bassi, Marina
    Higher education in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) has expanded dramatically in the new millennium, yet enrollment in short-cycle programs (SCPs) is still relatively low. Shorter and more practical than bachelor’s programs, SCPs can form skilled human capital fast. The economic crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic has accentuated underlying trends, such as automation, the use of electronic platforms, and the need for lifelong learning. Addressing these demands requires the urgent upskilling and reskilling of the population—a task for which SCPs are uniquely suited. The Fast Track to New Skills: Short-Cycle Higher Education Programs in Latin America and the Caribbean explores the labor market outcomes and returns of SCPs, examines their providers, and identifies the practices adopted by the best programs. Relying on unique data that includes a novel survey of SCP directors in five LAC countries, it finds that while SCPs generate, on average, good labor market outcomes, they vary greatly in quality. SCP providers respond quickly and flexibly to local economy needs; and specific practices related to faculty, job search assistance, and interaction with prospective employers are distinctive of the best programs. Drawing on these findings, The Fast Track to New Skills discusses how to create an environment where good programs are offered and students have the interest and means to attend them. It draws attention to a higher education sector that has been typically overlooked, both in research and policy. The Fast Track to New Skills will be of interest to policy makers, researchers, and the public at large.
  • Publication
    Labor Market Effects of Short-Cycle Higher Education Programs: Lessons from Colombia
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2021-06) Ferreyra, Maria Marta; Urzúa, Sergio
    This paper estimates the heterogeneous labor market effects of enrolling in higher education short-cycle (SC) programs. Expanding access to these programs might affect the behavior of some students (compliers) in two margins: the expansion margin (students who would not have enrolled in higher education otherwise) and the diversion margin (students who would have enrolled in bachelor’s programs otherwise). These responses are quantified by exploiting local exogenous variation in the supply of higher education institutions (HEIs) facing Colombian high school graduates in an empirical multinomial choice model with several instruments. Estimates indicate that the presence of at least one HEI specialized in SC programs in the vicinity of the student’s high school municipality increases SC enrollment by 3.7–4.5 percentage points (40–50% of the SC enrollment rate). The diversion margin largely drives this effect. For female compliers, enrollment in SC programs increases formal employment relative to the next-best alternative. For male compliers, in contrast, it lowers formal employment and wages. These results should alert policymakers of the unexpected consequences of higher education expansionary policies.
  • Publication
    What Makes a Program Good?: Evidence from Short-Cycle Higher Education Programs in Five Developing Countries
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2021-06) Dinarte Diaz, Lelys; Ferreyra, Maria Marta; Urzua, Sergio; Bassi, Marina
    Short-cycle higher education programs (SCPs) can play a central role in skill development and higher education expansion, yet their quality varies greatly within and among countries. This paper explores the relationship between programs’ practices and inputs (quality determinants) and student academic and labor market outcomes. It designs and conduct a novel survey to collect program-level information on quality determinants and average outcomes for Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, and Peru. Categories of quality determinants include training and curriculum, infrastructure, faculty, link with productive sector, costs and funding, and practices on student admission and institutional governance. The paper also collects administrative, student-level data on higher education and formal employment for SCP students in Brazil and Ecuador and match it to survey data. Machine learning methods are used to select the quality determinants that predict outcomes at the program and student levels. Estimates indicate that some quality determinants may favor academic and labor market outcomes while others may hinder them. Two practices predict improvements in all labor market outcomes in Brazil and Ecuador—teaching numerical competencies and providing job market information—and one practice— teaching numerical competencies—additionally predicts improvements in labor market outcomes for all survey countries. Since quality determinants account for 20-40 percent of the explained variation in student-level outcomes, quality determinants might have a role shrinking program quality gaps. Findings have implications for the design and replication of high-quality SCPs, their regulation, and the development of information systems.
  • Publication
    At a Crossroads: Higher Education in Latin America and the Caribbean
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2017-05-02) Ferreyra, Maria Marta; Avitabile, Ciro; Botero Álvarez, Javier; Haimovich Paz, Francisco; Urzúa, Sergio
    Higher education (HE) has expanded dramatically in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) since 2000. While access became more equitable, quality concerns remain. This volume studies the expansion, as well as HE quality, variety and equity in LAC. It investigates the expansion’s demand and supply drivers, and outlines policy implications.