Labor Market Returns to College Enrollment and Degree Attainment: Heterogeneous Effects by Socioeconomic Status

Sugene Cho , The Ohio State University
Kelly Purtell, The Ohio State University

Although college education is becoming increasingly more important for a stable employment in the U.S., many youth have limited resources to attend and persist through college. In light of these challenges and rising costs of college, understanding its potential labor market returns is critical. However, little is known about the implications of college attendance without degree attainment, especially for youth from low-SES backgrounds. To address this gap, we used the National Longitudinal Study of Youth–1997 and propensity score techniques to explore the associations between college enrollment, with and without degree attainment, and future objective and subjective career outcomes. Our results indicate youth who attended college but did not obtain a degree did report higher wages than youth who never enrolled. However, only youth who obtained a degree reported higher job satisfaction. We plan to examine whether these associations vary by socioeconomic background in future analyses.

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 Presented in Session 8. Economy, Labor Force, Education, & Inequality