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

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

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Lam, David & Ardington, Cally & Leibbrandt, Murray, 2011. "Schooling as a lottery: Racial differences in school advancement in urban South Africa," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(2), pages 121-136, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:deveco:v:95:y:2011:i:2:p:121-136
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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.
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    3. Haroon Bhorat & Morne Oosthuizen, 2009. "Determinants of Grade 12 Pass Rates in the Post-Apartheid South African Schooling System," Journal of African Economies, Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE), vol. 18(4), pages 634-666, August.
    4. Hanushek, Eric A., 2006. "School Resources," Handbook of the Economics of Education, Elsevier.
    5. 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.
    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. 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.
    8. 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 117-148, October.
    9. 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 151-160, February.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. David Lam & Cally Ardington & Nicola Branson & Murray Leibbrandt, 2013. "Credit Constraints and the Racial Gap in Post-Secondary Education in South Africa," NBER Working Papers 19607, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. repec:eee:deveco:v:130:y:2018:i:c:p:33-44 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Nicola Branson & Amy Kahn, 2016. "The Post Matriculation Enrolment Decision: Do Public Colleges Provide Students with a Viable Alternative? Evidence from the First Four Waves of the National Income Dynamics Study," SALDRU Working Papers 182, Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town.
    4. Jörg Baten & Johan Fourie, 2015. "Numeracy of Africans, Asians, and Europeans during the early modern period: new evidence from Cape Colony court registers," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 68(2), pages 632-656, May.
    5. Todd Pugatch, 2014. "Safety valve or sinkhole? Vocational schooling in South Africa," IZA Journal of Labor & Development, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 3(1), pages 1-31, December.
    6. Kezia Lilenstein & Ingrid Woolard & Murray Leibbrandt, 2016. "In-Work Poverty in South Africa: The Impact of Income Sharing in the Presence of High Unemployment," SALDRU Working Papers 193, Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town.
    7. repec:dem:demres:v:37:y:2017:i:59 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Zimmermann, Klaus F. & Biavaschi, Costanza & Eichhorst, Werner & Giulietti, Corrado & Kendzia, Michael J. & Muravyev, Alexander & Pieters, Janneke & Rodríguez-Planas, Núria & Schmidl, Ricarda, 2013. "Youth Unemployment and Vocational Training," Foundations and Trends(R) in Microeconomics, now publishers, vol. 9(1–2), pages 1-157, December.
      • Biavaschi, Costanza & Eichhorst, Werner & Giulietti, Corrado & Kendzia, Michael J. & Muravyev, Alexander & Pieters, Janneke & Rodríguez-Planas, Núria & Schmidl, Ricarda & Zimmermann, Klaus F., 2012. "Youth Unemployment and Vocational Training," IZA Discussion Papers 6890, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    9. Rachel E. Goldberg, 2013. "Family Instability and Pathways to Adulthood in Cape Town, South Africa," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 39(2), pages 231-256, June.
    10. William Jack & Tavneet Suri, 2014. "Risk Sharing and Transactions Costs: Evidence from Kenya's Mobile Money Revolution," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(1), pages 183-223, January.
    11. Asmus Zoch, 2017. "The effect of neighbourhoods and school quality on education and labour market outcomes in South Africa," Working Papers 08/2017, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    12. Esther Duflo & Pascaline Dupas & Michael Kremer, 2015. "Education, HIV, and Early Fertility: Experimental Evidence from Kenya," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(9), pages 2757-2797, September.
    13. Ito, Takahiro & Tanaka, Shinsuke, 2018. "Abolishing user fees, fertility choice, and educational attainment," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 130(C), pages 33-44.
    14. Rulof Burger & Servaas Berg & Dieter Fintel, 2015. "The Unintended Consequences of Education Policies on South African Participation and Unemployment," South African Journal of Economics, Economic Society of South Africa, vol. 83(1), pages 74-100, March.
    15. Nicola Branson & Julia Garlick & David Lam & Murray Leibbrandt, 2012. "Education and Inequality: The South African Case," SALDRU Working Papers 75, Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town.
    16. Johannes Fedderke, 2012. "The Cost of Rigidity: The Case of the South African Labor Market," Comparative Economic Studies, Palgrave Macmillan;Association for Comparative Economic Studies, vol. 54(4), pages 809-842, December.
    17. repec:eee:injoed:v:56:y:2017:i:c:p:1-10 is not listed on IDEAS
    18. David Lam & Murray Leibbrandt & Cecil Mlatsheni, 2008. "Education and Youth Unemployment in South Africa," SALDRU Working Papers 22, Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town.
    19. Nicola Branson & Clare Hofmeyr & David Lam, 2014. "Progress through school and the determinants of school dropout in South Africa," Development Southern Africa, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 31(1), pages 106-126, January.
    20. Pugatch, Todd, 2012. "Bumpy Rides: School to Work Transitions in South Africa," IZA Discussion Papers 6305, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    21. repec:hir:idecdp:3-12 is not listed on IDEAS
    22. Eyal, Katherine & Woolard, Ingrid, 2013. "School Enrolment and the Child Support Grant: Evidence from South Africa," SALDRU Working Papers 125, Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town.
    23. Debra Shepherd, 2013. "A question of efficiency: decomposing South African reading test scores using PIRLS 2006," Working Papers 20/2013, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    24. Katherine Eyal & Lindokuhle Njozela, 2016. "What Difference Does A Year Make? The Cumulative Effect of Missing Cash Transfers on Schooling Attainment," SALDRU Working Papers 186, Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town.
    25. Bozzoli, Carlos G., 2016. "Orphanhood and fertility in young adults: Evidence from South Africa," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 22(C), pages 190-200.

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