The subject of inequality has been realized in many spheres of life. The education sector is not an exception. Educational inequality is the disparity seen in learning efficacy and results as encountered by students with varying backgrounds. Efficacy in education is mainly determined through test scores, grades, college entrance statistics, drop-our rates and the completion rates amongst learners in college. Most of the education inequality seen today comes from economic differences that usually fall along racial demarcations and in much contemporary conversation concerning education fairness conflate the two, depicting the manner in which they cannot be separated from residential location and much later in recent times, language.
The educational inequality that has from historic times existed between minority students and white students has continued to advance economic and social inequality. Therefore, the effects of educational inequality are not only left within the circles of education, but also continue further to affect other life aspects. All over the world, there have been unending calls to reform education at each level. With various causes that are very much connected to society, history and culture, the educational inequality has apparently been one of the most difficult challenges to address.
Despite the challenges faced in eradicating educational inequality, education has continued to be a very important area in the society with a big hope of moving it forward. It enhances social cohesion, identity, citizenship, equality of chance, employment economic growth and social inclusion. Based on these reasons, equality must be enhanced. In the present-day America, very many disadvantaged children have continued to grow up lacking key skills required to excel in the 21st century. Inequality has continued to persist in educational achievement between racial and cultural groups or income groups or across geographical regions. Most importantly, low performance levels among these disadvantaged children have over the years been responsible for the long-term issues, especially in such an economy with higher levels of skills and a deteriorating wages offered to those people that are less-skilled.
Basically, educational inequality in one hand is as a result of social class and the background of families. Again, it has also been through insufficient management of schools that has led to meager achievement for most students. Inequality in education has therefore created societal challenges and battles that the less privileged and vulnerable in the society have continued to fall prey. The issue has been around for many years now and very little progress is seemingly taking place to address it.
This dissertation consists of three chapters on labor economics. The first two chapters focus on education, and the third examines inequality and incarceration. Chapter one explores whether college students strategically delay exiting college in response to poor labor market conditions. It exploits variation in U.S. state unemployment rates to identify the causal impact of unemployment rates on time to graduation. Strategic delay is observed among both men and women. Results indicate that students delay graduation by approximately 0.4 months for each percentage point increase in junior-year unemployment rates, implying the average student delays by approximately half a semester during a typical recession. Effects are greatest for men with freshman majors in education, professional and vocational technologies, the humanities, business, and the sciences, and for women in education, the sciences, or undeclared. Delays are robust to fluctuations in students’ in-school work hours, earnings, and job market conditions. Chapter two assesses the impact of over-the-counter access to emergency contraception on women’s educational attainment using variation in access produced by state legislation since 1998. Approximately 5% of American women of reproductive age experience an unintended pregnancy annually, indicating a significant unmet need for contraception. Results indicate that cohorts with greater access to emergency contraception are more likely to graduate from high school and attain the associate’s degree. Effects for high school graduation are most pronounced among black women, while increases in associate’s degree attainment are driven primarily by white and Hispanic women. Chapter three explores the relationship between incarceration and generational inequality. Using a calibrated OLG model of criminal behavior with race, inheritance and endogenous education, I calculate how much longer prison sentences, and a higher likelihood of capture and conviction contribute to income inequality. Results indicate that changes to criminal policy mirroring those of the “tough on crime” legislation of the 1980s and 1990s, including an 18% increase in criminal apprehension and a 68% increase in prison sentence length, have little impact on inequality as measured by the Gini coefficient. Instead, the model provides evidence that these enhanced enforcement measures deter crime and decrease incarceration rates.