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Back to school: An application of human capital theory for mature workers

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  • Jepsen, Christopher
  • Montgomery, Mark

Abstract

There is a vast literature on the decision to enroll in higher education, but it focuses almost entirely on traditional students: 18 year olds graduating from high school. Yet less than half of students at degree-granting institutions are in the traditional 18–22 age range; nearly 40% are at least 25. This paper examines the enrollment behavior of persons 25 or older. We use data from a large-scale 1998 Department of Labor (DOL) policy demonstration in Greater Baltimore. By studying the behavior of older people we can examine factors such as age, earnings and marital status that vary little among the much-studied traditional students. Our results conform to the (rarely tested) predictions of human capital theory that age and opportunity costs are impediments to enrollment. We also find that where you live has a substantial impact on whether you return to school.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Economics of Education Review.

Volume (Year): 31 (2012)
Issue (Month): 1 ()
Pages: 168-178

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Handle: RePEc:eee:ecoedu:v:31:y:2012:i:1:p:168-178

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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/econedurev

Related research

Keywords: Postsecondary education; Enrollment; Human capital theory; Nontraditional students;

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References

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  1. Alm, James & Winters, John V., 2009. "Distance and intrastate college student migration," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 28(6), pages 728-738, December.
  2. Jacobson, Louis & LaLonde, Robert & G. Sullivan, Daniel, 2005. "Estimating the returns to community college schooling for displaced workers," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 125(1-2), pages 271-304.
  3. Leigh, D. E. & Gill, A. M., 2003. "Do community colleges really divert students from earning bachelor's degrees?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 23-30, February.
  4. James J. Heckman & Lance J. Lochner & Petra E. Todd, 2005. "Earnings Functions, Rates of Return and Treatment Effects: The Mincer Equation and Beyond," NBER Working Papers 11544, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Louis S. Jacobson & Robert J. LaLonde & Daniel G. Sullivan, 1993. "Long-term earnings losses of high-seniority displaced workers," Economic Perspectives, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, issue Nov, pages 2-20.
  6. Audrey Light, 1995. "The Effects of Interrupted Schooling on Wages," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 30(3), pages 472-502.
  7. Louis S. Jacobson & Robert J. LaLonde & Daniel G. Sullivan, 1992. "Earnings losses of displaced workers," Working Paper Series, Macroeconomic Issues 92-28, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  8. Duane E. Leigh & Andrew M. Gill, 1997. "Labor Market Returns to Community Colleges: Evidence for Returning Adults," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 32(2), pages 334-353.
  9. Jeffrey M Wooldridge, 2010. "Econometric Analysis of Cross Section and Panel Data," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 2, volume 1, number 0262232588, December.
  10. Hope Corman, 1983. "Postsecondary Education Enrollment Responses by Recent High School Graduates and Older Adults," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 18(2), pages 247-267.
  11. Rouse, Cecilia Elena, 1995. "Democratization or Diversion? The Effect of Community Colleges on Educational Attainment," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 13(2), pages 217-24, April.
  12. Marcus, Richard D., 1986. "Earnings and the decision to return to school," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 5(3), pages 309-317, June.
  13. Doyle, William R., 2009. "The effect of community college enrollment on bachelor's degree completion," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 28(2), pages 199-206, April.
  14. David Card, 1992. "Using Regional Variation in Wages to Measure the Effects of the Federal Minimum Wage," Working Papers 680, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  15. Jepsen, Christopher & Montgomery, Mark, 2009. "Miles to go before I learn: The effect of travel distance on the mature person's choice of a community college," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(1), pages 64-73, January.
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