Mechanisms of Credential Inflation in the United States Aerospace and Defense Industry
Credential inflation in the United States has posed numerous problems for citizens, educators, business leaders, credentialing providers, and policymakers. Over the last 40 years, scholars have documented concerns with the Human Capital Theory inflationary mechanism. Studies have identified limitations with its explanatory power which suggest this dynamic may be better explained under a sociological lens known as Credential Theory. The purpose of this quantitative study was to examine agreement levels of human resource managers regarding these two inflationary mechanisms. The following research question guided this analysis: In the Aerospace and Defense industry, do human resource managers favor Credential Theory or Human Capital Theory as an explanation for increasing employer education requirements? Existing literature is enhanced through a purposive survey of professional perceptions regarding these theories. An online survey was disseminated among 1,026 Washington State human resource managers employed in 93 Aerospace and Defense companies; a total of 542 respondents participated. Items were based on the following subscales: productivity, rewards, credential inflation, and employer typology (credential culture). Four control variables were utilized: age, gender, educational level, and organizational size. Statistical analysis in SPSS included frequency distribution, Levene’s test of homoscedasticity, reliability analysis, ordinal logistic regression, goodness-of-fit (Pearson and Deviance), Pseudo-R2 (Cox, Snell, Nagelkerke, McFadden), parallel lines, Principal Components Analysis, and parameter model estimation. Findings indicate managerial preference for the Credential Theory mechanism of credential inflation rather than the Human Capital Theory. Statistically significant relationships were found between manager gender and agreement levels regarding theory affinity. These findings may influence public and private investments in human capital, organizational recruitment and training practices, and government educational initiatives. Recommendations may influence social policy and encourage scholars to revisit credential inflation mechanisms operating within in the United States labor market.|Keywords: Credentials, human resource management, aerospace, employment.
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