The Earnings of Community College Graduates in California

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Community College Research Center Teachers College, Columbia University


In this study, the author draws on longitudinal data for 1.1 million students in California to estimate the effects of community college credentials on students’ earnings, as compared with students who are not awarded a credential. In contrast to much of the recent work on this subject, which assumed that the effects of credentials on students’ earnings are constant over time, the author estimates the effects of credentials on the rate of change in students’ earnings and allow these effects to vary over time. The author finds substantial variability in returns by students’ race/ethnicity and gender. Black men and Black women experience especially strong returns to associate degrees and long-term certificates, relative to other students of the same gender but different race/ethnicity, and men of all racial/ethnic groups experience much stronger returns to short-term certificates than do women. The author also notes wide variation by field of study in returns to credentials.



education, higher--government policy, California, community college students, academic credentials, student earnings