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The returns to community college schooling for displaced workers (Jacobson et al. 2001).

Absence of conflict of interest.

Citation

Jacobson, L., LaLonde, R., & Sullivan, D. G. (2001). The returns to community college schooling for displaced workers. Retrieved from: https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED481841.pdf

Highlights

  • The study's objective was to examine the impact of the Displaced Workers Educational Training Program (DWETP) on earnings. This summary focuses on the Pittsburgh sample.
  • The study used a nonexperimental design to compare the outcomes of displaced workers who completed community college courses as part of the DWETP and displaced workers who did not receive such schooling. Using state unemployment insurance earnings records and community college transcripts, the authors conducted statistical models to examine the differences in earnings between the groups.
  • The study found that post-schooling earnings for both male and female participants in the DWETP were greater than their counterparts in the comparison group who did not participate in the program. However, the authors did not provide tests of statistical significance.
  • The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is moderate because it was based on a well-implemented nonexperimental design; this is the highest causal evidence rating possible for a nonexperimental design. This means we are somewhat confident that the estimated effects are attributable to enrollment in the DWETP, but other factors might also have contributed.

Intervention Examined

The Displaced Workers Educational Training Program (DWETP)

Features of the Intervention

Community colleges can receive government funds to place displaced workers into specifically designed vocational training programs that offer noncredit courses tailored to their needs. The Allegheny County, Pennsylvania government established the Displaced Workers Educational Training Program (DWETP) for that purpose and implemented the program at the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC). The program provided participants with recruiting and counseling services, relevant curricula, and encouraged participants to enroll and complete community college courses. If participants remained enrolled at CCAC and worked no more than 30 hours per week, the program also covered all tuition, fees, and supplies.

Features of the Study

The study used a nonexperimental design to examine differences in earnings between displaced workers who completed community college schooling at the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) through the DWETP and displaced workers who did not receive such schooling. Displaced workers are defined as prime-aged adults who were displaced from jobs from a variety of industries. Displaced workers were identified using state unemployment insurance earnings records, which constructed the study sample. The study sample consisted of over 6,000 displaced workers from Allegheny County in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania who were displaced from their jobs between 1978 and 1985. The workers had three or more years of job tenure and were permanently laid off from their jobs. Most individuals included in the sample had attended college before their job loss and acquired education beyond high school. The average age was approximately 35 for males and 37 for females.

The treatment group was established by matching their unemployment records to their community college transcripts and included about 3,200 displaced workers who participated in the DWETP. The comparison group was composed of about 3,500 displaced workers who did not enroll in the DWETP. Approximately 1,000 individuals among the treatment sample were "dropouts," which are defined as participants that enrolled but did not complete at least one community college course. The authors also ensured that the sample only included workers with a strong work history in Pennsylvania's workforce. The authors were also able to follow participants for up to eight years following their schooling. Using state unemployment insurance earnings records and community college transcripts, the authors conducted statistical models to compare the earnings of treatment and comparison group members. However, the study did not include tests of statistical significance.

Findings

Earnings and wages

  • The study found that post-schooling earnings for both male and females that participated in the DWETP were greater than their counterparts in the comparison group who did not participate in the program.
  • The study found male displaced workers earned an average of $860 more than their comparison group counterparts just one quarter after completing community college courses.
  • The study found the long-term impacts of community college schooling on earnings for male displaced workers resulted in an average increase of $1,047.
  • The study found female displaced workers earned an average of $645 more than their comparison group counterparts just one quarter after completing community college courses.
  • The study found the long-term impacts of community college schooling on earnings for female displaced workers resulted in an average increase of $812.

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

The authors state that the estimates they used in their models control for fixed unobserved characteristics in the sample that might influence both earnings and individuals' decisions to acquire training following the loss of a job. However, there is still the possibility that there are other underlying factors that differentiate between individuals who chose to enroll in community college courses and individuals who did not.

Causal Evidence Rating

The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is moderate because it was based on a well-implemented nonexperimental design; this is the highest causal evidence rating possible for a nonexperimental design. This means we are somewhat confident that the estimated effects are attributable to enrollment in the DWETP, but other factors might also have contributed.

Reviewed by CLEAR

January 2021

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