Community Colleges and Upward Mobility

83 Pages Posted: 17 May 2019

See all articles by Jack Mountjoy

Jack Mountjoy

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business

Date Written: February 26, 2019


Two-year community colleges enroll nearly half of all first-time undergraduates, 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. Developing a new multivariate instrumental variables approach applied to linked administrative education and earnings records, I 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 4-year entry. 2-year access particularly boosts the upward mobility of disadvantaged students, who experience less 4-year diversion.

Keywords: Community colleges, 2-year colleges, upward mobility, diversion, instrumental variables, multiple treatments, returns to college

JEL Classification: I26, J24, C31, C36

Suggested Citation

Mountjoy, Jack, Community Colleges and Upward Mobility (February 26, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Jack Mountjoy (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

5807 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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