This paper provides the first detailed empirical evidence of the labor-market returns to community college diplomas and certificates. Using detailed administrative data from Kentucky, we estimate panel-data models that control for differences among students in pre-college earnings and educational aspirations. Associate’s degrees and diplomas have quarterly earnings returns of nearly $2,000 for women, compared to returns of approximately $1,500 for men. Certificates have small positive returns for men and women in most specifications. There is substantial heterogeneity in returns across fields of study. Degrees, diplomas, and certificates all correspond with higher levels of employment.

Document Type

Research Paper

Publication Date


Discussion Paper Number

DP 2009-08