UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Leading determinants of education attainment Coelli, Michael B.


The objective of this thesis is to examine more closely the effect of parental income on individual education outcomes. The first paper (Chapter 2) identifies the causal effect of parental income on education. Parental job losses that occur when youth are completing high school have significant negative effects on the university attendance of youth, and increase early school dropout behaviour. This provides evidence of an alarming impact of labour market displacement receiving little prior attention, and of a significant causal parental income effect. Job losses have persistent negative effects on parental income. I estimate a full year-to-year grade transition model to uncover the immediate and lagged effects of parental shocks on the education attendance outcomes of youth, and to test that these shock measures are exogenous. The second paper (Chapter 3) examines the effect of tuition fees on the post-secondary education attendance of youth from different parental income backgrounds. Universities and community colleges in several Canadian provinces increased tuition markedly over the 1990s, while some provincial governments instituted tuition freezes. I employ this fee variation to identify tuition effects. I also estimate the effect of factors influencing the level of rationing of university and community college places on attendance, namely government funding and cohort size, on attendance. Tuition increases markedly lowered the university attendance of low income youth but affected attendance of youth from middle and high income backgrounds much less. Cohort crowding also affected low income youth more negatively than other youth. I employ information on Canadian youth from the Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics (SLID) in these first two papers. The third paper (Chapter 4) examines the effect of individual high school principals on high school graduation probabilities. My co-authors and I employ a unique administrative data set of all grade 12 students in the province of British Columbia in the 1990s. In this province, there was significant turnover of high school principals within schools, from both rotation of principals from school to school, plus from quits and new hires. This rotation permits the isolation of the effect of the school principal from the effect of schools, student peers and the school neighbourhood. The results suggest that principals, and thus schools, can affect graduation rates. We focus particularly on the effect of school principals on youth from low income backgrounds, as identified by family welfare receipt.

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