The effects of the Great Depression on educational attainment


ABSTRACT This paper examines the relationship between the Great Depression and the educational attainment of young adults in the 1930s, taking advantage of the state-level variation in employment as individuals were turning a critical age. In general, there were negligible effects of the Great Depression's severity on average years of schooling beyond the cohort and state-specific effects. Regional differences in availability of appropriate schools seem to matter for the substitution effect to operate to increase the years of schooling during the recession. Furthermore, at the top end of educational attainment, the income effect seems to outweigh the substitution effect as the severity of the Great Depression is associated with a large drop in white male's college attendance. In sum, the Great Depression may have increased the average educational attainment, but the net effects seem small. More importantly, it appears to have compressed the distribution of educational attainment among white males.

  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The interrelation among race, schooling, and labor market opportunities of American blacks can help us make sense of the relatively poor economic status of blacks in contemporary society. The role of these factors in slavery and the economic consequences for blacks has received much attention, but the post-slave experience of blacks in the American economy has been less studied. To deepen our understanding of that experience, Robert A. Margo mines a wealth of newly available census data and school district records. By analyzing evidence concerning occupational discrimination, educational expenditures, taxation, and teachers' salaries, he clarifies the costs for blacks of post-slave segregation. "A concise, lucid account of the bases of racial inequality in the South between Reconstruction and the Civil Rights era. . . . Deserves the careful attention of anyone concerned with historical and contemporary race stratification."—Kathryn M. Neckerman, Contemporary Sociology "Margo has produced an excellent study, which can serve as a model for aspiring cliometricians. To describe it as 'required reading' would fail to indicate just how important, indeed indispensable, the book will be to scholars interested in racial economic differences, past or present."—Robert Higgs, Journal of Economic Literature "Margo shows that history is important in understanding present domestic problems; his study has significant implications for understanding post-1950s black economic development."—Joe M. Richardson, Journal of American History
    Journal of Interdisciplinary History 03/1992; DOI:10.2307/2597454 · 0.26 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: During 1930-33, the U.S. financial system experienced conditions that were among the most difficult and chaotic in its history. Waves of bank failures culminated in the shutdown of the banking system (and of a number of other intermediaries and markets) in March 1933. On the other side of the ledger, exceptionally high rates of default and bankruptcy affected every class of bor- rower except the federal government. An interesting aspect of the general finan- cial crises—most clearly, of the bank failures —was their coincidence in timing with ad- verse developments in the macroeconomy.1 Notably, an apparent attempt at recovery from the 1929-30 recession2 was stalled at the time of the first banking crisis (Novem- ber-December 1930); the incipient recovery degenerated into a new slump during the mid-1931 panics; and the economy and the financial system both reached their respec- tive low points at the time of the bank "holi- day" of March 1933. Only with the New Deal's rehabilitation of the financial system in 1933—35 did the economy begin its slow emergence from the Great Depression. A possible explanation of these synchro- nous movements is that the financial system simply responded, without feedback, to the declines in aggregate output. This is con- tradicted by the facts that problems of the financial system tended to lead output de- * Stanford Graduate School of Business and Hoover Institution. I received useful comments from too many people to list here by name, but I am grateful to each of them. The National Science Foundation provided par- tial research support. 1This is documented more carefully in Sections I.C
    American Economic Review 02/1983; 73(3):257-76. · 2.69 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: This paper surveys recent research on employment and unemployment in the 1930s. Unlike earlier studies that tended to rely heavily on aggregate time series, the research discussed in this paper focuses on disaggregated data. This shift in focus stems from two factors. First, dissaggregated evidence provides many more degrees of freedom than the decade of annual observations associated with the depression and thus can prove helpful in discriminating between macroeconomic models. Second, and more importantly, disaggregation has revealed aspects of labor market behavior hidden in the time series that are essential to their proper interpretation and which are, in any case, important in their own right. In particular, the findings dispute the view that representative-agent models are useful for interpreting shifts in employment and unemployment over the course of the Depression.
    Journal of Economic Perspectives 02/1993; 7(2):41-59. DOI:10.1257/jep.7.2.41 · 4.21 Impact Factor


Available from