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Raising State Minimum Wages, Lowering Community College Enrollment (WP-23-32)

Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, Julia Turner, and Sarah Turner

While the direct impacts of minimum wage changes on employment have received considerable attention, these policy changes have the potential to impact skill attainment by changing the opportunity cost of college enrollment. Using institutional data on college enrollment and program completion, the researchers find that enrollment falls markedly among students at public two-year institutions in response to increases in the minimum wage. The largest enrollment effects are seen for those students who are enrolled in part-time courses of study at community colleges. The effect of minimum wage changes on credential attainment is limited to modest effects for women at the associate degree level, suggesting that the changes primarily impact the enrollment of students who are unlikely to have been diverted from degree attainment.

Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, Margaret Walker Alexander Professor of Human Development and Social Policy and IPR Fellow, Northwestern University

Julia Turner, Department of Human Development and Social Policy, Northwestern University

Sarah Turner, University Professor of Economics, Education and Public Policy, University of Virginia

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