Inequalities in Educational Choice and Outcomes
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This thesis examines several topics relating to family background and educational achievement. Chapter 2 examines the influence of credit constraints and government policy on college choice and educational attainment in the United States. We propose a discrete dynamic programming model of human capital accumulation where agents make schooling, borrowing, saving, and work decisions. Structural parameters of the model are estimated using from the 1997 cohort of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY97) and Generalized Method of Moments (GMM). The fitted model underpredicts on a number of key dimensions, but provides a preliminary framework to explore counterfactual policies. These policy experiments indicate that college choice and completion are not influenced by changes to tuition levels, interest rates or grants. We find that the non-pecuniary benefits of attending private schools plays an important role in individual college choice. Chapters 3 and 4 analyze the test gap between ethnic minorities and white students in Canada with a focus on the Indigenous-white test score gap. In Chapter 3, we use data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth to show that after controlling for a rich set of observables, students who self-identify as Indigenous perform 0.31 standard deviations lower on a standardized math test compared to their white counterparts. Counterfactual distributions from the decomposition method of Lemiuex (2002) suggest that the test gap between low performing students is more than eliminated after accounting for the differences in the returns to and levels of observable characteristics; however, a sizeable gap remains among high performing students. Chapter 4 further explores the timing of the emergence of the test gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth. We find that the test score gap emerges at 12 years of age, and, despite renewed attention to Indigenous education, the test score gap has not improved between 1994 and 2009.
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