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The dropout effects of career pathways: Evidence from California

Sade Bonilla

Economics of Education Review, 2020, vol. 75, issue C

Abstract: Contemporary Career and Technical Education (CTE) models have shifted from isolated courses to sequences of study that integrate academics and skills in high-demand sectors. Providing career pathways to high school students may reduce asymmetries about the available careers and strategies for attaining them but they may also catalyze students’ intrinsic motivation by shifting their understanding of their social role and capacity for success. In this study, I estimate the effects of an ambitious $500 million effort to encourage the formation of career pathways in California. Funding supported the formation of tripartite partnerships between K-12 school districts, employers and community colleges to develop career pathway curricula (i.e., articulated course sequences) in high-demand occupations and sectors. I provide causal estimates of implementing this multifaceted intervention by leveraging a natural experiment that occurs at the margin of grant receipt. Using Regression Discontinuity (RD) designs, I provide evidence on the most proximate mechanism, increased CTE spending. Per pupil CTE expenditures increased by 21.7 percent for grant recipients at the assignment threshold relative to the CTE spending of unsuccessful applicants. Furthermore, dropout rates declined by 23 percent in treatment districts but were more pronounced for females than males.

Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.1016/j.econedurev.2020.101972

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