Is Education the Great Equalizer?
Abstract: We investigate the role of education in equalizing differences in socio-economic status (SES) across groups determined by two at-birth “lotteries:” birthplace and genetics. Birthplace and genetics are strongly related to long-term SES and education is believed to be a way to overcome disadvantages on such initial endowments. We ask how the effects of a compulsory schooling law-induced increase in secondary education vary with the quality of an individual’s birth neighborhood and their polygenic score for educational attainment. We use a regression discontinuity framework and a large sample that allows for well-powered estimates of such interactions. While the law change reduced differences in educational attainment across birthplace and genetic groups, it increased existing differences in middle age SES. In particular, the extra education benefited those with high genetic scores the most, doubling the gradient between the polygenic score and SES. Our findings suggest that compulsory schooling policies, while equalizing educational attainment, might have limited ability in reducing lifecycle SES inequalities by genetics and birthplace.
Location: Presented remotely via Zoom