Long-run Impacts of School Desegregation & School Quality on Adult Attainments
This paper investigates the extent and ways in which childhood school quality factors causally influence subsequent adult socioeconomic and health outcomes. The study analyzes the life trajectories of children born between 1950 and 1970, and followed through 2007, using the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID). The PSID data are linked with multiple data sources that describe the neighborhood attributes and school quality resources that prevailed at the time these children were growing up.
I estimate the long-run impacts of court-ordered school desegregation plans on adult attainments by exploiting quasi-random variation in the timing of initial court orders, which generated differences in the timing and scope of the implementation of these plans during the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. Difference-in-differences estimates, sibling-difference estimates, and 2SLS/IV estimates indicate that school desegregation and the accompanied increases in school quality resulted in significant improvements in adult attainments for blacks. I find that, for blacks, school desegregation significantly increased educational attainment and adult earnings, reduced the probability of incarceration, and improved adult health status; desegregation had no effects on whites across each of these outcomes. The results suggest that the mechanisms through which school desegregation led to beneficial adult attainment outcomes for blacks include improvement in access to school resources reflected in reductions in class size and increases in per-pupil spending. This narrowed black-white adult socioeconomic and health disparities for the cohorts exposed to integrated schools during childhood. The results highlight the significant impacts of educational attainment on future health status and risk of incarceration, and point to the importance of school quality in influencing socioeconomic mobility prospects, which in turn have far-reaching impacts on health.
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