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Education and Intergenerational Mobility: Evidence from a Natural Experiment in Puerto Rico

  • John C. Bluedorn
  • Elizabeth U. Cascio

The existence of intergenerational spillovers to public investments in schooling is often assumed in policy discussions regarding economic development. However, few studies to date have forwarded convincing evidence that externalities exist for developing countries. In this paper, we address this issue using the arguably exogenous schooling consequences of a major hurricane strike on Puerto Rico in the 1950s. Using data from the U.S. Census of Population for Puerto Rico, we first find that individuals on the margin of school entry at the time of the storm and residing in the most exposed regions of the island had significantly lower levels of education as adults than their counterparts in less exposed regions. Using the interaction of wind speed and age at the time of the storm as an instrument, we then find that maternal education is related to the probability that a child speaks English. Our estimates imply an additional year of education raises the probability that a child speaks English by between 4.3 and 4.5 percentage points, or approximately 24 to 28 percent. We find no conclusive evidence that parental education increases the probability that a child is enrolled, literate, or in an age-appropriate grade. On balance, these findings suggest that education is responsible at least in part for the persistence of human capital across generations.

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File URL: http://www.nuff.ox.ac.uk/economics/papers/2005/w21/bluedorncascio-apr05.pdf
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Paper provided by University of Oxford, Department of Economics in its series Economics Series Working Papers with number 2005-W21.

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Date of creation: 01 Sep 2005
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Handle: RePEc:oxf:wpaper:2005-w21
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  1. Lucia Breierova & Esther Duflo, 2003. "The Impact of Education on Fertility and Child Mortality: Do Fathers Really Matter Less Than Mothers?," OECD Development Centre Working Papers 217, OECD Publishing.
  2. Drazen, Allan, 1978. "Government Debt, Human Capital, and Bequests in a Life-Cycle Model," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(3), pages 505-16, June.
  3. Esther Duflo, 2010. "The Medium Run Effects of Educational Expansion: Evidence from a Large School Construction Program in Indonesia," Working Papers id:2787, eSocialSciences.
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  5. Gary S. Becker & Robert J. Barro, 1986. "A Reformulation of the Economic Theory of Fertility," NBER Working Papers 1793, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  7. Esther Duflo, 2001. "Schooling and Labor Market Consequences of School Construction in Indonesia: Evidence from an Unusual Policy Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(4), pages 795-813, September.
  8. Justin McCrary & Heather Royer, 2011. "The Effect of Female Education on Fertility and Infant Health: Evidence from School Entry Policies Using Exact Date of Birth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(1), pages 158-95, February.
  9. Arnaud Chevalier, 2004. "Parental Education and Child’s Education - A Natural Experiment," Working Papers 200414, School Of Economics, University College Dublin.
  10. Gary S. Becker & Nigel Tomes, 1994. "Human Capital and the Rise and Fall of Families," NBER Chapters, in: Human Capital: A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis with Special Reference to Education (3rd Edition), pages 257-298 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Janet Currie & Enrico Moretti, 2003. "Mother'S Education And The Intergenerational Transmission Of Human Capital: Evidence From College Openings," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(4), pages 1495-1532, November.
  12. Jean-Marie Baland & James A. Robinson, 2000. "Is Child Labor Inefficient?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(4), pages 663-679, August.
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  14. Eric V. Edmonds, 2004. "Does Illiquidity Alter Child Labor and Schooling Decisions? Evidence from Household Responses to Anticipated Cash Transfers in South Africa," NBER Working Papers 10265, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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