The Returns of a Community College Education: Evidence from the National Education Longitudinal Survey

Publication Date:
Jan 2005
Project Programs:
Future of Work

Using the 2000 follow-up of the National Education Longitudinal Survey, the authors estimated earnings effects of a community college education. Previous research relied on data collected from students enrolled 20 or 30 years ago. Because the labor market and community colleges have changed dramatically since then, the authors provide an update by studying students enrolled in the 1990s. They found substantial evidence that a community college education has positive effects on earnings among young workers. This effect was larger for annual earnings than for hourly wages. Earnings benefits accrued both to those who failed to earn a credential and to those who earned an associate degree. The current results are similar to estimates for earlier cohorts. The stability of the wage advantage of a community college education during a period of growing enrollment provides evidence of a growing relative demand for a community college over a high school education.


RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal of original empirical research articles by both established and emerging scholars.


The Russell Sage Foundation offers grants and positions in our Visiting Scholars program for research.


Join our mailing list for email updates.