The Effects of High School Career and Technical Education for Non-College Bound Students

LaForest, Michael, Economics - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Stern, Steven, Department of Economics, Stony Brook University
Pepper, John, Department of Economics, University of Virginia
Johnson, William, Department of Economics, University of Virginia
Castleman, Benjamin, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

I present a dynamic structural model of individual choice regarding high school education curricula, post-secondary education attainment, and early labor market opportunities. I estimate the model to investigate the returns to education from different types of U.S. high school curricula, with a particular focus on career and technical education (CTE) for non-college bound students. I estimate the model using panel data on students’ high school course selection and labor market outcomes from the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002, and I account for high school curriculum self-selection by including instruments in the model for high school CTE and academic opportunities along with local labor market controls. The estimates suggest that, relative to general education courses, trade CTE courses improve a non-college bound student’s later labor market wages and chance of being employed in a skilled occupation, while business CTE courses improve wages in low-wage / high-non-pecuniary utility occupations. In addition, the estimates suggest that increased CTE opportunities decrease a non-college bound student’s propensity to drop out of high school but also that CTE courses decrease a high school graduate’s likelihood to pursue a post-secondary education degree. Policy simulations suggest that incorporating vocational certification into high school CTE curricula would cause more students to take CTE courses and improve their labor market outcomes and that instituting a German-style high school tracking system in the United States would improve the education and labor market outcomes of high school graduates at the expense of their non-pecuniary utility in high school. Policy simulations also suggest that providing free tuition to community college would cause more students to take general education courses in high school, increase graduation from community colleges, slightly increase graduation from four-year colleges and universities, and slightly increase average wages in the population.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Returns to Education, Human Capital, Occupation Choice, Dynamic Discrete Choice Models
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