Throughout the late 1970s and the early 1980s, over 50% of all ﬁrst-time ﬁrst-year college
students started in a junior college. Despite such a large role in higher education, we know
relatively little about how well they serve their role of providing an education for all who want to
attend college. Junior colleges affect educational attainment in two ways. First, the schools provide
a place in higher education for those who might not have otherwise attended college, the
democratization qﬁecr; however, they also draw away some students who might otherwise have
attended a four-year college, the diversion eﬁect. The democratization effect is nonnegative;
however the effect of diversion on educational attainment is unclear, a priori, as some students might
be better off starting in a four-year school.
This paper attempts to sort out the overall impact of junior colleges on educational
attainment. I use the natural experiment arising from variation in access to junior colleges across
cities and states to address the problem of self-selection into types of colleges. This approach is
implemented by an instrumental variables strategy in which distance to junior college and average
state two-year college tuition are used to instrument for junior college attendance in an educational
attainment equation. The results suggest that on net junior colleges increase total years of schooling,
but do not change the likelihood of attaining a BA.