The Long-term Effects of Graduating from High School During a Recession: Bad Luck or Forced Opportunity?

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Working Paper

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This paper examines whether local labor market conditions at the time of high school graduation have long-term e®ects on wages. We ¯nd that a higher unemploy- ment rate raises the probability of staying in school after ¯nishing high school of white males, but reduces that of black males. A higher unemployment rate is also found to have a negative and lasting impact on the wages of white males who directly enter the workforce after graduating from high school. The main impetus of these lower wages is a tendency to accumulate less experience over the same time horizon. Thus, for most individuals graduating during a recession represents bad luck. However, for some the forced opportunity of additional years of education results in higher earnings levels.