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Education Achievement in Segregated School Systems: The Effects of "Separate-But-Equal"

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  • Robert A. Margo

Abstract

Educational achievement in segregated school systems was considerably lower in the black schools than in the white schools. Economic historians have argued that the racial achievement gap reflected the discriminatory funding of the black schools. This paper assesses counterfactually the historical effects of a "separate-but-equal" policy of educational finance. Using cross-sectional data from 1930 and 1940, I estimate race-specific educational production functions. Eliminating race differences in inputs supplied by school boards explains 40-50 percent of the racial achievement gap, depending on how achievement is measured.The remainder appears to reflect the impact of family background on achievement, of which the most important effect was adult black illiteracy, a legacy of slavery and educational backwardness in the late 19th century. The paper also shows how school boards' marginal valuation of black achievement can be recovered from the production function estimates. Compared to preferences that would have led them to voluntarily practice equality,Southern school boards judged black achievement to be worth roughly half the value they placed on white achievement.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert A. Margo, 1985. "Education Achievement in Segregated School Systems: The Effects of "Separate-But-Equal"," NBER Working Papers 1620, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:1620 Note: DAE
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    1. Behrman, Jere R & Pollak, Robert A & Taubman, Paul, 1982. "Parental Preferences and Provision for Progeny," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(1), pages 52-73, February.
    2. Summers, Anita A & Wolfe, Barbara L, 1977. "Do Schools Make a Difference?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(4), pages 639-652, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Guy Michaels, 2011. "The Long Term Consequences of Resourceā€Based Specialisation," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 121(551), pages 31-57, March.
    2. Lleras-Muney, Adriana, 2002. "Were Compulsory Attendance and Child Labor Laws Effective? An Analysis from 1915 to 1939," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 45(2), pages 401-435, October.
    3. Canaday, Neil & Tamura, Robert, 2009. "White discrimination in provision of black education: Plantations and towns," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 33(7), pages 1490-1530, July.
    4. Brasington, David M., 1999. "Central city school administrative policy: systematically passing undeserving students," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 201-212, April.
    5. Canaday, Neil, 2008. "The accumulation of property by southern blacks and whites: Individual-level evidence from a South Carolina cotton county, 1910-1919," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 45(1), pages 51-75, January.
    6. Jacoby, Hanan G. & Mansuri, Ghazala, 2015. "Crossing boundaries: How social hierarchy impedes economic mobility," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 135-154.
    7. Collins, William J. & Margo, Robert A., 2006. "Historical Perspectives on Racial Differences in Schooling in the United States," Handbook of the Economics of Education, Elsevier.
    8. Orley Ashenfelter & William J. Collins & Albert Yoon, 2006. "Evaluating the Role of Brown v. Board of Education in School Equalization, Desegregation, and the Income of African Americans," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 8(2), pages 213-248.
    9. Dionissi Aliprantis & Daniel R. Carroll, 2012. "Neighborhood dynamics and the distribution of opportunity," Working Paper 1212, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, revised 01 Feb 2013.
    10. Bruce Sacerdote, 2005. "Slavery and the Intergenerational Transmission of Human Capital," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 87(2), pages 217-234, May.
    11. Mora, Marie T., 1997. "Attendance, schooling quality, and the demand for education of Mexican Americans, African Americans, and non-Hispanic whites," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 16(4), pages 407-418, October.
    12. Kwabena Gyimah-Brempong & Anthony O. Gyapong, 1991. "Production of Education: Are Socioeconomic Characteristics Important Factors?," Eastern Economic Journal, Eastern Economic Association, vol. 17(4), pages 507-521, Oct-Dec.

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