Social Action, Private Choice, and Philanthropy: Understanding the Sources of Improvements in Black Schooling in Georgia, 1911-1960

John Donohue III, James J. Heckman, Petra E. Todd

NBER Working Paper No. 6418
Issued in February 1998
NBER Program(s):Labor Studies

Improvements in educational attainment and in educational quality are universally acknowledged to be major contributors to black economic progress in the twentieth century. The sources of these improvements are less well understood. Many scholars implicitly assume improvements in schooling reflect private choices. In fact, schooling is publicly provided and increases in the quality and availability of black schools in the South occurred at a time when blacks were excluded from the political process. This paper demonstrates the important roles of social action, especially NAACP litigation, and private philanthropy, in improving access and quality of public schooling in Georgia and in the rest of the South in the first half of the century. Analyses that pit rising schooling quality as an alternative to social action in explaining black progress miss the important role of social activism in promoting schooling quality and hence in elevating the economic status of black Americans.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w6418

Published: Donohue, John J., III, James J. Heckman and Petra E. Todd. "The Schooling Of Southern Blacks: The Roles Of Legal Activism And Private Philanthropy, 1910-1960," Quarterly Journal of Economics, 2002, v107(1,Feb), 225-268.

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