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Schooling as a lottery: Racial differences in school advancement in urban South Africa

  • Lam, David
  • Ardington, Cally
  • Leibbrandt, Murray

This paper analyzes the large racial differences in progress through secondary school in South Africa. Using recently collected longitudinal data we find that grade advancement is strongly associated with scores on a baseline literacy and numeracy test. In grades 8-11 the effect of these scores on grade progression is much stronger for white and coloured students than for African students, while there is no racial difference in the impact of the scores on passing the nationally standardized grade 12 matriculation exam. We develop a stochastic model of grade repetition that generates predictions consistent with these results. The model predicts that a larger stochastic component in the link between learning and measured performance will generate higher enrollment, higher failure rates, and a weaker link between ability and grade progression. The results suggest that grade progression in African schools is poorly linked to actual ability and learning. The results point to the importance of considering the stochastic component of grade repetition in analyzing school systems with high failure rates.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Development Economics.

Volume (Year): 95 (2011)
Issue (Month): 2 (July)
Pages: 121-136

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Handle: RePEc:eee:deveco:v:95:y:2011:i:2:p:121-136
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/devec

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  1. Gomes-Neto, Joao Batista & Hanushek, Eric A, 1994. "Causes and Consequences of Grade Repetition: Evidence from Brazil," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 43(1), pages 117-48, October.
  2. Hanushek, Eric A., 2006. "School Resources," Handbook of the Economics of Education, Elsevier.
  3. Selod, Harris & Zenou, Yves, 2003. "Private versus public schools in post-Apartheid South African cities: theory and policy implications," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 71(2), pages 351-394, August.
  4. Servaas van der Berg & Megan Louw, 2007. "Lessons learnt from SACMEQII: South African student performance in regional context," Working Papers 16/2007, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
  5. Yamauchi, Futoshi, 2005. "Race, equity, and public schools in post-Apartheid South Africa: Equal opportunity for all kids," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 213-233, April.
  6. Stephen V. Cameron & James J. Heckman, 2001. "The Dynamics of Educational Attainment for Black, Hispanic, and White Males," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(3), pages 455-499, June.
  7. Jacoby, Hanan G, 1994. "Borrowing Constraints and Progress through School: Evidence from Peru," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 76(1), pages 151-60, February.
  8. Anne Case & Angus Deaton, 1999. "School Inputs And Educational Outcomes In South Africa," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(3), pages 1047-1084, August.
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