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Tribal Gaming and Educational Outcomes in the Next Generation


  • Owen Thompson


Following a series of federal policy changes and court rulings in the late 1980s, over 400 casinos owned by Native American tribes were opened throughout the United States, and expanded tribal gaming has transformed the economic development trajectories of many American Indian tribes. While most existing evaluations of tribal gaming's impacts focus on contemporaneous effects, the present paper evaluates whether the advent of tribal casinos affected educational outcomes in the subsequent generation of American Indian children. I assemble data on the adult educational outcomes of 11,647 American Indians across 36 counties who were children when a local casino was opened. I use these data to compare individuals who were relatively young at the time of a casino opening, and therefore had greater exposure to post‐gaming socioeconomic conditions, and individuals who were from the same county but were relatively old at the time of a casino opening, while also exploiting differences in the relative sizes of tribal gaming operations. Using this approach, I estimate that exposure to an average‐sized gaming operation during childhood increased adult educational attainment by .328 years and increased the probability of high school graduation and post‐secondary degree completion by 5 to 14 percent. No substantive improvements in adult educational outcomes are observed among white children from the same counties. The magnitudes of the estimates imply a relationship between family income during childhood and educational achievement that is similar to previous research within other low‐income populations.

Suggested Citation

  • Owen Thompson, 2019. "Tribal Gaming and Educational Outcomes in the Next Generation," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 38(3), pages 629-652, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:jpamgt:v:38:y:2019:i:3:p:629-652
    DOI: 10.1002/pam.22129

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