October 2012

IZA DP No. 6902: The Labor-Market Returns to Community College Degrees, Diplomas, and Certificates

revision published in: Journal of Labor Economics, 2014, 32 (1), 95-121

This paper provides among the first rigorous estimates of the labor-market returns to community college certificates and diplomas, as well as estimating the returns to the more commonly-studied associate's degrees. Using administrative data from Kentucky, we estimate panel-data models that control for differences among students in pre-college earnings and educational aspirations. Associate's degrees and diplomas have quarterly earnings returns of nearly $2,400 for women and $1,500 for men, compared with much smaller returns for certificates. There is substantial heterogeneity in returns across fields of study. Degrees, diplomas, and – for women – certificates correspond with higher levels of employment.