This Development Economics Seminar will be held in-person in room 517 from 4:30pm to 6pm.
This paper explores the role of internal migrants in the rise of schools in the United States in the second half of the 19th century. I find that, controlling for wealth, family characteristics, and parents' occupations, children of migrants coming from more educated states were more likely to be enrolled in schools than children of parents from less educated states who lived in the same counties. These differences in preferences for education created spillovers for the local population: native parents were more likely to enroll their children in a school if their neighbors migrated from a more educated state. This finding emphasizes the role of internal migrants in the diffusion of education across newly-settled states, explaining inequality in school enrollments through the background composition of settlers. I use a novel dataset (the Census of Social Statistics) with a detailed description of school finances to show that a likely channel was the increase in public spending on schools, which significantly expanded access to education. To account for the migrants’ selection of destinations based on the local level of schooling, I use a new instrumental variable: the similarity in potential yields between the origins and the destinations.
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