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Education Achievement in Segregated School Systems: The Effects of "Separate-But-Equal"

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  • Robert A. Margo

Abstract

Educational achievement in segregated school systems was considerably lower in the black schools than in the white schools. Economic historians have argued that the racial achievement gap reflected the discriminatory funding of the black schools. This paper assesses counterfactually the historical effects of a "separate-but-equal" policy of educational finance. Using cross-sectional data from 1930 and 1940, I estimate race-specific educational production functions. Eliminating race differences in inputs supplied by school boards explains 40-50 percent of the racial achievement gap, depending on how achievement is measured.The remainder appears to reflect the impact of family background on achievement, of which the most important effect was adult black illiteracy, a legacy of slavery and educational backwardness in the late 19th century. The paper also shows how school boards' marginal valuation of black achievement can be recovered from the production function estimates. Compared to preferences that would have led them to voluntarily practice equality,Southern school boards judged black achievement to be worth roughly half the value they placed on white achievement.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 1620.

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Date of creation: May 1985
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Publication status: published as Margo, Robert A. "Education Achievement in Segregated Schoo Systems: The Effects of 'Separate-But-Equal'" American Economic Review, Vol. 76, No. 4, September 1986, pp. 794-801.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:1620

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  1. Behrman, Jere R & Pollak, Robert A & Taubman, Paul, 1982. "Parental Preferences and Provision for Progeny," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(1), pages 52-73, February.
  2. Summers, Anita A & Wolfe, Barbara L, 1977. "Do Schools Make a Difference?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 67(4), pages 639-52, September.
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Cited by:
  1. Bruce Sacerdote, 2002. "Slavery and the Intergenerational Transmission of Human Capital," NBER Working Papers 9227, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Orley Ashenfelter & William J. Collins & Albert Yoon, 2005. "Evaluating the Role of Brown vs. Board of Education in School Equalization, Desegregation, and the Income of African Americans," Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers, Vanderbilt University Department of Economics 0515, Vanderbilt University Department of Economics.
  3. Guy Michaels, 2007. "The long term consequences of resource based specialization," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library 3249, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  4. Kwabena Gyimah-Brempong & Anthony O. Gyapong, 1991. "Production of Education: Are Socioeconomic Characteristics Important Factors?," Eastern Economic Journal, Eastern Economic Association, vol. 17(4), pages 507-521, Oct-Dec.
  5. Canaday, Neil, 2008. "The accumulation of property by southern blacks and whites: Individual-level evidence from a South Carolina cotton county, 1910-1919," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 45(1), pages 51-75, January.
  6. William J. Collins & Robert A. Margo, 2003. "Historical Perspectives on Racial Differences in Schooling in the United States," Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers, Vanderbilt University Department of Economics 0313, Vanderbilt University Department of Economics.
  7. Brasington, David M., 1999. "Central city school administrative policy: systematically passing undeserving students," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 201-212, April.
  8. Canaday, Neil & Tamura, Robert, 2009. "White discrimination in provision of black education: Plantations and towns," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 33(7), pages 1490-1530, July.
  9. Mora, Marie T., 1997. "Attendance, schooling quality, and the demand for education of Mexican Americans, African Americans, and non-Hispanic whites," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 16(4), pages 407-418, October.

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