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Schooling as a Lottery: Racial Differences in School Advancement in Urban South Africa

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  • David Lam

    () (Economics Department, University of Michigan)

  • Cally Ardington

    () (SALDRU, School of Economics, University of Cape TownAuthor-Email:)

  • Murray Leibbrandt

    () (SALDRU, School of Economics, University of Cape Town)

Abstract

This paper develops a stochastic model of grade repetition to analyze the large racial differences in progress through secondary school in South Africa. 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. Using recently collected longitudinal data we find that progress through secondary school 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. The results provide strong support for our model, suggesting 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

  • David Lam & Cally Ardington & Murray Leibbrandt, 2007. "Schooling as a Lottery: Racial Differences in School Advancement in Urban South Africa," SALDRU Working Papers 18, Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town.
  • Handle: RePEc:ldr:wpaper:18
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Anne Case & Angus Deaton, 1999. "School Inputs and Educational Outcomes in South Africa," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(3), pages 1047-1084.
    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. 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.
    5. 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.
    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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