The Labor of Division: Returns to Compulsory High School Math Coursework
NBER Working Paper No. 23063
Despite great focus on and public investment in STEM education, little causal evidence connects quantitative coursework to students’ economic outcomes. I show that state changes in minimum high school math requirements substantially increase Black students’ completed math coursework and their later earnings. The marginal student’s return to an additional math course is 10 percent, roughly half the return to a year of high school, and is partly explained by a shift toward more cognitively skilled occupations. White students’ coursework and earnings are unaffected. Rigorous standards for quantitative coursework can close meaningful portions of racial gaps in economic outcomes.
Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w23063
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