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Did the Great Depression affect Educational Attainment in the US?

Authors
Publication Date
Keywords
  • I21 - Analysis Of Education
  • I23 - Higher Education Research Institutions
  • J24 - Human Capital
  • Skills
  • Occupational Choice
  • Labor Productivity
Disciplines
  • Economics
  • Education

Abstract

The Great Depression is a prime example of a macroeconomic crisis that produced adverse economic and social effects in all spheres of life. The theoretical arguments about the real effects of the Great Depression on education vary. The first is that of economic hardships, which might force individuals eligible to go to school to work for their sustenance. The second argument is that high unemployment would reduce the opportunity cost of going to school, making going to school the best other viable alternative. Following these theoretical notions, this paper explores the impact of the Great Depression on education, on race (whites and blacks) and gender (males and females), during the period from 1930 to 1940. Furthermore, this paper examines the effects of state employment indices on the average education (at the mean). The results (using individual census data from 1960) show some evidence that the Great Depression affected education of whites born between 1911 and 1915. However, the results show no evidence that the variation in state employment indices affected the decision of schooling on the average (mean), but it affected the education of white males at the top of the distribution (90% percentile).

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