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The "Virtues" of the Past: Education in the First Hundred Years of the New Republic

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  • Claudia Goldin
  • Lawrence F. Katz

Abstract

By the mid-nineteenth century school enrollment rates in the United States exceeded those of any other nation in the world and by the early twentieth century the United States had accomplished mass education at all levels. No country was able to close the gap until the last quarter of the twentieth century. For much of its history U.S. education was spurred by a set of 'virtues,' the most important of which were public provision by small fiscally independent districts, public funding, secular control, gender neutrality, open access, a forgiving system, and an academic curriculum. The outcomes of the virtues were an enormous diffusion of educational institutions and the early spread of mass education. America borrowed its educational institutions from Europe but added to them in ways that served to enhance competition and openness. The virtues of long ago need not be the virtues of today, and they also need not have been virtuous in all places and at all times in the past. In this essay we explore the historical origins of these virtues and find that almost all were in place in the period before the American Civil War.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 9958.

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Date of creation: Sep 2003
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9958

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  1. Goldin, Claudia & Katz, Lawrence F., 2000. "Education and Income in the Early Twentieth Century: Evidence from the Prairies," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 60(03), pages 782-818, September.
  2. Fishlow, Albert, 1966. "Levels of Nineteenth-Century American Investment in Education," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 26(04), pages 418-436, December.
  3. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 1999. "Education and Income in the Early 20th Century: Evidence from the Prairies," NBER Working Papers 7217, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Caroline Minter Hoxby, 1996. "Are Efficiency and Equity in School Finance Substitutes or Complements?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 10(4), pages 51-72, Fall.
  5. Field, Alexander James, 1979. "Economic and Demographic Determinants of Educational Commitment: Massachusetts, 1855," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 39(02), pages 439-459, June.
  6. Raquel Fernandez & Richard Rogerson, 2003. "Equity and Resources: An Analysis of Education Finance Systems," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 111(4), pages 858-897, August.
  7. Easterlin, Richard A., 1981. "Why Isn't the Whole World Developed?," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 41(01), pages 1-17, March.
  8. Landes, William M. & Solmon, Lewis C., 1972. "Compulsory Schooling Legislation: An Economic Analysis of Law and Social Change in the Nineteenth Century," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 32(01), pages 54-91, March.
  9. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence Katz, 2003. "Mass Secondary Schooling and the State," NBER Working Papers 10075, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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Cited by:
  1. Moshe Hazan, 2006. "Longevity and Lifetime Labor Input: Data and Implications," DEGIT Conference Papers c011_065, DEGIT, Dynamics, Economic Growth, and International Trade.
  2. Maristella Botticini & Zvi Eckstein, 2006. "Path Dependence and Occupations," Boston University - Department of Economics - The Institute for Economic Development Working Papers Series DP-154, Boston University - Department of Economics.
  3. Sun Go & Peter H. Lindert, 2007. "The Curious Dawn of American Public Schools," NBER Working Papers 13335, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Moshe Hazan, 2006. "Longevity and Hours over the Lifetime: Data and Implications," 2006 Meeting Papers 416, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  5. Vollrath, Dietrich, 2013. "Inequality and school funding in the rural United States, 1890," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 50(2), pages 267-284.
  6. Fabrice Murtin, 2006. "American Economic Development Since the Civil War or the Virtue of Education," CEP Discussion Papers dp0765, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  7. Francisco Gallego, 2008. "Historical Origins of Schooling: The Role of Democracy and Political Decentralization," Working Papers ClioLab 7, EH Clio Lab. Instituto de Economía. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile.

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