The Vertical Transfer Penalty among Bachelor’s Degree Graduates

Dirk Witteveen and Paul Attewell. Journal of Higher Education.  Published online: 24 May 2019  


Numerous studies have investigated the consequences of vertical transfer on students’ higher education outcomes in comparison to ‘native four-year students’ – those who went straight from high school into a bachelor’s program. However, the long-term labor market outcomes for vertical transfer students are understudied. Using nationally-representative data from the National Survey of College Graduates 2015, we estimate the relationship between starting in a community college (vs. at a four-year college) and post-college earnings and employment, in ways that correct for selection bias and over-dispersion. We estimate a roughly 14% earnings disadvantage for baccalaureates who started at a two-year rather than 4-year institution, regardless of college major. No effect was found on graduates’ employment chances.

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