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Should we teach old dogs new tricks? the impact of community college retraining on older displaced workers

  • Louis S. Jacobson
  • Robert LaLonde
  • Daniel G. Sullivan

This paper estimates the returns to retraining for older displaced workers--those 35 or older--by estimating the impact that community college schooling has on their subsequent earnings. Our analysis relies on longitudinal administrative data covering workers who were displaced from jobs in Washington State during the first half of the 1990s and who subsequently remained attached to the state’s work force. Our database contains displaced workers' quarterly earnings records covering 14 years matched to the records of 25 of the state's community colleges. We find that older displaced workers participate in community college schooling at significantly lower rates than younger displaced workers. However, among those who participate in retraining, the per-period impact for older and younger displaced workers is similar. ; We estimate that one academic year of such schooling increases the long- term earnings by about 8 percent for older males and by about 10 percent for older females. These per-period impacts are in line with those reported in the schooling literature. These percentages do not necessarily imply that retraining older workers is a sound social investment. We find that the social internal rates of return from investments in older displaced workers' retraining are less than for younger displaced workers and likely less than those reported for schooling of children. However, our internal rate of return estimates are very sensitive to how we measure the opportunity cost of retraining. If we assume that these opportunity costs are zero, the internal rate of return from retraining older displaced workers is about 11 percent. By contrast, if we rely on our estimates of the opportunity cost of retraining, the internal rate of return may be less than 2 percent for older men and as low as 4 percent for older women.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago in its series Working Paper Series with number WP-03-25.

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Date of creation: 2003
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedhwp:wp-03-25
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  1. Heckman, James J., 2000. "Policies to foster human capital," Research in Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 3-56, March.
  2. James J. Heckman & Lance J. Lochner & Petra E. Todd, 2003. "Fifty Years of Mincer Earnings Regressions," NBER Working Papers 9732, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Jacobson, Louis S & LaLonde, Robert J & Sullivan, Daniel G, 1993. "Earnings Losses of Displaced Workers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(4), pages 685-709, September.
  4. Garces, E. & Thomas, D. & Currie, J., 2000. "Longer Term Effects of Head Start," Papers 00-20, RAND - Labor and Population Program.
  5. Orley Ashenfelter & David Card, 1984. "Using the Longitudinal Structure of Earnings to Estimate the Effect of Training Programs," NBER Working Papers 1489, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Card, David, 1999. "The causal effect of education on earnings," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 30, pages 1801-1863 Elsevier.
  7. Hollenbeck, Kevin, 1993. "Postsecondary education as triage: Returns to academic and technical programs," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 12(3), pages 213-232, September.
  8. James Heckman & Hidehiko Ichimura & Jeffrey Smith & Petra Todd, 1998. "Characterizing Selection Bias Using Experimental Data," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 66(5), pages 1017-1098, September.
  9. Ruhm, Christopher J, 1991. "Are Workers Permanently Scarred by Job Displacements?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(1), pages 319-24, March.
  10. Heckman, J.J. & Hotz, V.J., 1988. "Choosing Among Alternative Nonexperimental Methods For Estimating The Impact Of Social Programs: The Case Of Manpower Training," University of Chicago - Economics Research Center 88-12, Chicago - Economics Research Center.
  11. Freeman, Richard B, 1974. "Occupational Training in Proprietary Schools and Technical Institutes," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 56(3), pages 310-18, August.
  12. Browning, Edgar K, 1987. "On the Marginal Welfare Cost of Taxation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(1), pages 11-23, March.
  13. Currie, Janet & Thomas, Duncan, 1995. "Does Head Start Make a Difference?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(3), pages 341-64, June.
  14. Angrist, Joshua D & Newey, Whitney K, 1991. "Over-Identification Tests in Earnings Functions with Fixed Effects," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 9(3), pages 317-23, July.
  15. Ashenfelter, Orley C, 1978. "Estimating the Effect of Training Programs on Earnings," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 60(1), pages 47-57, February.
  16. Carneiro, Pedro & Heckman, James J., 2003. "Human Capital Policy," IZA Discussion Papers 821, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  17. Thomas J. Kane & Cecilia Elena Rouse, 1999. "The Community College: Educating Students at the Margin between College and Work," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 13(1), pages 63-84, Winter.
  18. Janet Currie, 2001. "Early Childhood Education Programs," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(2), pages 213-238, Spring.
  19. repec:mpr:mprres:3005 is not listed on IDEAS
  20. Aakvik, Arild & Heckman, James J. & Vytlacil, Edward J., 2005. "Estimating treatment effects for discrete outcomes when responses to treatment vary: an application to Norwegian vocational rehabilitation programs," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 125(1-2), pages 15-51.
  21. Jeffrey Smith & Petra Todd, 2003. "Does Matching Overcome Lalonde's Critique of Nonexperimental Estimators?," University of Western Ontario, CIBC Centre for Human Capital and Productivity Working Papers 20035, University of Western Ontario, CIBC Centre for Human Capital and Productivity.
  22. Louis G. Jacobson & Robert J. LaLonde & Daniel G. Sullivan, 1997. "The return from community college schooling for displaced workers," Working Paper Series, Macroeconomic Issues WP-97-16, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  23. Heckman, James J. & Robb, Richard Jr., 1985. "Alternative methods for evaluating the impact of interventions : An overview," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 30(1-2), pages 239-267.
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