NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Income Inequality, Social Mobility, and the Decision to Drop Out of High School

Melissa S. Kearney, Phillip B. Levine

NBER Working Paper No. 20195
Issued in June 2014
NBER Program(s):   CH   LS

This paper considers the role that high levels of income inequality and low rates of social mobility play in driving the educational attainment of youth in low-income households in the United States. Using high school degree status from five individual-level surveys, our analysis reveals that low-socioeconomic status (SES) students, and particularly boys, who grow up in locations with greater levels of lower-tail income inequality and lower levels of social mobility are relatively more likely to drop out of high school, conditional on other individual characteristics and contextual factors. The data indicate that this relationship does not reflect alternative characteristics of the place, such as poverty concentration, residential segregation, or public school financing. We propose that the results are consistent with a class of explanations that emphasize a role for perceptions of one’s own identity, position in society, or chances of success. In the end, our empirical results indicate that high levels of lower-tail income inequality and low levels of social mobility hinder educational advancement for disadvantaged youth.

You may purchase this paper on-line in .pdf format from SSRN.com ($5) for electronic delivery.

Information about Free Papers

You should expect a free download if you are a subscriber, a corporate associate of the NBER, a journalist, an employee of the U.S. federal government with a ".GOV" domain name, or a resident of nearly any developing country or transition economy.

If you usually get free papers at work/university but do not at home, you can either connect to your work VPN or proxy (if any) or elect to have a link to the paper emailed to your work email address below. The email address must be connected to a subscribing college, university, or other subscribing institution. Gmail and other free email addresses will not have access.

E-mail:

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w20195

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded these:
Genicot and Ray w19976 Aspirations and Inequality
Chiappori and Meghir w20191 Intrahousehold Inequality
Cortes, Goodman, and Nomi w20211 Intensive Math Instruction and Educational Attainment: Long-Run Impacts of Double-Dose Algebra
Aldy and Smyth w20206 Heterogeneity in the Value of Life
Kearney and Levine w17965 Why is the Teen Birth Rate in the United States so High and Why Does it Matter?
 
Publications
Activities
Meetings
NBER Videos
Data
People
About

Support
National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email: info@nber.org

Contact Us