Examining the Relationship Between 2-year College Entry and Baccalaureate Aspirants’ Academic and Labor Market Outcomes: Impacts, Heterogeneity, and Mechanisms

  • Di XuEmail author
  • Sabrina Solanki
  • Ashley Harlow


Using the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:2002), this paper analyzes students’ baccalaureate attainment and early labor market performance, comparing 2-year college and 4-year institution entrants and exploring the potential heterogeneous treatment effects of initiating one’s college experience in a 2-year college by individual pre-college academic preparation. Utilizing propensity score matching on a rich set of student demographic characteristics, academic and high school attributes, we find that 2-year college entry sharply reduces baccalaureate aspirants’ likelihood of earning a baccalaureate, and such negative effects are particularly pronounced for students in the highest quartile of pre-college math ability. In terms of labor market outcomes, female 2-year college entrants are less likely to gain full-time employment, as compared to their female 4-year institution counterparts. We also examine various mechanisms that may hinder 2-year college entrants’ baccalaureate completion, including the impact of 2-year college attendance on early academic progress, challenges of the transfer process, loss of credits at the point of transfer, and post-transfer academic shock. Our results provide suggestive evidence in support of all four mechanisms.


Vertical transfer Propensity score matching Labor market outcomes Heterogeneous impacts Mechanisms 



The research reported here was supported by the American Educational Research Association, through Grant 78089 to University of California, Irvine. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent views of the American Educational Research Association. Any errors are our own.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of EducationUniversity of California, IrvineIrvineUSA

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