Labor Market Returns to Sub-Baccalaureate Credentials: How Much Does a Community College Degree or Certificate Pay?
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Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis
November 6, 2014

Mina Dadgar, Career Ladders Project
Madeline Joy Trimble, Columbia University


This study provides one of the first estimates of the returns to different types of community college credentials—short-term certificates, long-term certificates, and associate degrees—across different fields of study. We exploit a rich data set that includes matched, longitudinal college transcripts and Unemployment Insurance records for students who entered a Washington State community college in 2001–2002. Our findings based on an individual fixed effect model suggest that earning an associate degree or a long-term certificate is associated with increased wages, particularly for women. We find that there is greater variation in returns to wages by the field of study than by degree type.

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