JEL codes: J24, J68, I26


While policymakers often promote further education for displaced workers, evidence on its effectiveness in the U.S. context primarily comes from evaluations of specific government sponsored training programs, which only represent one narrow avenue for skill acquisition. This paper studies the returns to retraining among unemployed workers, where retraining is broadly defined as enrollment in community colleges, four-year institutions, and technical centers. We link together high quality administrative records from the state of Ohio and estimate the returns using a matching design in which we compare the labor market outcomes of similar workers who do and do not enroll. Our matching specification is informed by a separate validation exercise in the spirit of LaLonde (1986), which evaluates a wide array of estimators using a combination of experimental and non-experimental data in a setting similar to ours. We graphically present the average quarterly earnings trajectories of the enrollees and matched non-enrollees over a nine-year period and show that there is little difference in earnings pre-enrollment, followed by temporarily depressed earnings among enrollees during the first two years after enrolling, and sustained positive returns thereafter. We find that enrollees experience an average earnings gain of seven percent three to four years after enrolling, and that the returns are driven by those who switch industries, particularly to healthcare.

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Pei, Z., & Leung, P. (2020). Further Education During Unemployment. Retrieved from (Original work published May 2020)
Working Papers