About the Center

Funding and Purpose

The Center for Analysis of Postsecondary Education and Employment was established in the summer of 2011 through a grant (R305C110011) from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) of the U.S. Department of Education to conduct research and provide national leadership (in cooperation with IES) for advancing knowledge about the relationship between postsecondary education and the labor market.

Organization and Management

The Center is housed and led by the Community College Research Center (CCRC), Teachers College, Columbia University, and is operated in collaboration with the University of Michigan and with scholars at Harvard, Stanford, the City University of New York, the University of California, and the University of North Carolina. Professor Thomas Bailey, who is the director of CCRC, also serves as the director of CAPSEE.

Representatives from five partner states providing data for core research (CA, MI, NC, OH, VA) act as research collaborators, and individuals from two additional states recognized as leaders in terms of quality of state higher education data (TX, WA) serve in an advisory capacity as affiliates. Center coordination, strategic direction, and research quality control are managed by a steering committee consisting of senior CAPSEE researchers. The Center also maintains a three-member advisory board of outside scholars

Core Research

CAPSEE conducts research on the labor market returns to different education pathways and on policies that aim to improve completion of pathways leading to strong economic returns.

The Center analyzes a broad range of education pathways in two- and four-year colleges, with a particular focus on: (1) relatively short-term occupational degrees and certificates that are designed to improve labor market outcomes; (2) non-credit workforce programs that enroll millions of students and play an important workforce development role; (3) the burgeoning for-profit sector; and (4) the trajectory of earnings growth after college. On policy issues, the Center is evaluating a series of initiatives designed to improve student outcomes, focusing on policies that combine work and study, help students choose among educational pathways, and provide incentives to choose specific occupational programs.

Data Sources and Analysis

Center researchers make use of large-scale longitudinal administrative datasets on individual college students across a span of recent cohorts in five states. These datasets include detailed information on student characteristics, awards obtained, pathways taken through college, and academic performance in college (with high school information in some cases). National Student Clearinghouse data are used to track students who leave the state, transfer, or enroll in private institutions. These educational data are merged with unemployment insurance (UI) data on earnings. These UI data yield earnings and employment data over multiple quarters and cover labor market experiences prior to college enrollment. In addition, postsecondary administrative data are linked to the Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics database, which includes wage records from 30 states, which allows the tracking of students into employment out of state.

CAPSEE carries out multivariate analysis to measure the employment and earnings outcomes of a variety of education pathways and makes use of methodologies that exploit exogenous variations to better estimate causal links.