Community Colleges and Upward Mobility

76 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2021 Last revised: 8 Jun 2023

See all articles by Jack Mountjoy

Jack Mountjoy

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business

Date Written: September 2021


Two-year community colleges enroll nearly half of all first-time undergraduates in the United States, but to ambiguous effect: low persistence rates and the potential for diverting students from 4-year institutions cast ambiguity over 2-year colleges' contributions to upward mobility. This paper develops a new instrumental variables approach to identifying causal effects along multiple treatment margins, and applies it to linked education and earnings registries to disentangle the net impacts of 2-year college access into two competing causal margins: significant value-added for 2-year entrants who otherwise would not have attended college, but negative impacts on students diverted from immediate 4-year entry.

Suggested Citation

Mountjoy, Jack, Community Colleges and Upward Mobility (September 2021). NBER Working Paper No. w29254, Available at SSRN:

Jack Mountjoy (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

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Chicago, IL 60637
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