Theses Doctoral

College and Career Readiness: Essays on Economics of Education and Employment

Zhou, Yang

This dissertation consists of three quantitative studies analyzing educational policies and programs that help to improve college readiness, college success, as well as the transition from college to the labor market.

The first chapter studies the impact of raising the bar for high school math on college readiness and success. The chapter examines the causal effects of recent state-level reforms increasing the high school graduation math requirement on high school graduation and college outcomes. Using nationally-representative survey data, the study exploits variation in the reform timing across states in a staggered difference-in-difference framework. Findings indicate that raising the high school graduation requirement in math coursework is a potentially effective policy tool to prepare students better for college, but highlight racial disparities in the effectiveness of the math reforms.

The second chapter discusses experiential learning through work-based courses at 2-year and 4-year colleges. Experiential learning is a critical component for a smooth transition from higher education to the workforce. In this chapter, I apply an innovative text mining technique to identify and analyze work-based courses from transcript data. The study examines patterns and post-degree labor market outcomes of taking work-based courses at college, and has important implications for colleges and policymakers to better support students on gaining from the courses.

The third chapter estimates heterogeneity in labor market returns to Master’s degrees. Using an individual fixed effects model with rich administrative data, the study provides up-to-date causal evidence on labor market returns to Master’s degrees, and examines heterogeneity in the returns by field area, student characteristics, and the macroeconomic condition in which students graduate and enter the labor market. Findings show that obtaining a Master’s degree increases quarterly earnings, but the return varies widely by field of study. And economic downturns appear to reduce but not eliminate the positive return to a Master’s degree.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Economics and Education
Thesis Advisors
Scott-Clayton, Judith E.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
April 13, 2022