Teachers College, Columbia University

Does Developmental Education Improve Labor Market Outcomes? Evidence From Two States

In this paper, the authors examine the economic consequences of developmental education for students. Using longitudinal student-unit record data from two large community college systems linked to wage record data, this study estimates the labor market returns to developmental credits versus college-level credits for two cohorts of students who attended community college in North Carolina and Virginia. 

The authors find that, in both states, earning developmental reading and writing credits led to an increase in earnings, which suggests that earning developmental English credits may improve individuals’ employability. In contrast, in both states, developmental math credits had negative impacts on earnings. The negative impact of developmental math coursework on wages provides support for nationwide efforts to shorten the long-sequence structure of developmental mathematics, and to teach math skills that are applicable to students’ real-world needs.

A version of this paper is published in the American Educational Research Journal, vol. 53, no. 3.