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Session Summary: Linking College and Labor Markets Datasets for Research on the Returns to College

November 10, 2012 09:12 AM

There was a lively discussion that ensued in the workshop“Linking College and Labor Market Datasets for Research on the Returns to College.” Presenter Clive Belfield, Queens College, presented his work done with the Center for Analysis of Post-Secondary Education and Employment (CAPSEE). The Center is acquiring linked data on educational attainment and employment, motivated by the growing expense for college, the markedly higher risk investment of students to attend, and the impact of the Great Recession. Belfield currently has more than 810,000 public community college students in North Carolina, covering 2001 to 2010. The goal of the database is to begin with a person’s college information and to link across, forward, and back on high school information, pre-, in-, and post-college work.

CAPSEE has found complex heterogeneity in the database during preliminary research. Females in the dataset who have graduated from North Carolina community colleges, average more credits than men and earn more with a diploma. The Center is also looking at patterns of student completion and deciphering between course and state information.

The advantages, disadvantages, and practicalities of linked databases were also discussed. Some of the linked data advantages are the pre-college controls, reduced selection bias, accurate and precise measures of earnings, and income over time. Some disadvantages of the system include the opportunity to control for selection bias, missing socioeconomic indicators, lack attitudinal data, sample truncation, and length data re-coding, computation, and cleaning. When building and using a linked database, the researcher will need to work with state agencies in order to obtain access to data. Belfield discussed the challenges - including length of time - in working with state agencies when the project is not a priority for state officials. The researcher should be wary, as it is difficult to repeatedly ask for information. Belfield stated that it may be difficult to acquire the data, but the lengthy work may pay off and have direct policy recommendations.

Contributed by Katherine Centore, Rutgers University


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