Theses Doctoral

Essays on the Economics of Community College Students' Academic and Labor Market Success

Dadgar, Mina

Most students who enter a community college with the stated intention of attaining a credential or transferring to a four-year university leave without accomplishing either of those goals (National Center for Education Statistics, 2011). This dissertation attempts to contribute to the growing economic literature that seeks to understand the conditions and policies that can positively influence community college students' academic and labor market success. In the first essay, I examine the effectiveness of remediation for students who are identified to have the lowest skills in mathematics. Descriptively, while students assigned to remediation tend to have poor outcomes overall, students assigned to the lowest levels of remedial math have the worst outcomes of all students. I use data from the state of Virginia's 2004 cohort of students and use a regression discontinuity design and find that students assigned to the third lowest level of remedial math would have benefited if they had been able to skip that remedial course. In the second essay, I use administrative data to examine how working while taking classes affects community college students' academic outcomes. I use two different identification strategy: an individual fixed effects strategy that takes advantage of the quarterly nature of the data to control for unobserved and time-invariant differences among students, and an instrumental variable difference-in-differences (IV-DID) framework that takes advantage of the fact that there is an exogenous supply of retail jobs during the winter holidays. Using the IV-DID framework, I compare academic outcomes during the fall versus the winter quarter for students who are more likely to work in retail versus students who are less likely to work in retail, based on pre-enrollment association with retail jobs. I find small negative effects of working on GPA and possibly positive outcomes of working on credit accumulation. Finally, in the third essay, Madeline J. Weiss and I examine the returns to community college credentials using administrative data. Using an individual fixed effects identification strategy that compares trajectories of wages across individuals, we find positive and substantial wage returns to associate degrees and long-term certificates and no wage returns to short-term certificates, over and above wage increases for students who enrolled and earned some credits but never earned a credential or transferred. We also find that associate degrees tend to be awarded in low-returns fields, but that in almost any given field, the returns to associate degrees is higher than the returns to certificates.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Economics and Education
Thesis Advisors
Bailey, Thomas R.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
June 28, 2013