Summary by: Lily An

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Traditional methods of estimating the returns to community college remain imprecise.

Historically, to estimate the labor market returns to a community college degree, researchers have compared the earnings of students who completed a degree to those who did not, at a single point in time, while controlling for background characteristics. With the expansion of longitudinal data sets, researchers have begun to consider how earnings before and during community college can affect returns to community college. However, even improved econometric analyses overlook some temporal influences on predicted earnings growth, such as the time between graduation and measured earnings, instead estimating averaged returns over time. These influences are particularly salient for community college students, who vary in their time-to-degree completion and often enter college with pre-existing or concurrent work experiences.