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Educational Tracking, Residential Sorting, and Intergenerational Economic Mobility: Evidence from South Korea

RSVP required by 5PM January 22

Abstract: I examine how the shift from an exam to a district based high school assignment rule impacts intergenerational mobility and residential inequality. A stylized model predicts that under district assignment, household income relative to one’s ability becomes a stronger predictor of achievement, and higher income households sort towards and increase housing prices in the better school districts. I test predictions utilizing a unique policy change from South Korea in the 1970s. High school admission had traditionally been exam based in South Korea. However, between 1974 and 1980 the central government shifted several cities to a school district based system. I find that the reform increased intergenerational income elasticity from 0.15 to 0.31, and that higher income households migrated to the reform cities. I next examine whether school districting altered residential land prices within a city using a first differenced boundary discontinuity design. By focusing on the immediate years before and after the creation of school districts in Seoul, I find that residential land prices increased by about 13% point more on average and by about 26% point across boundaries in the better school district. In sum, I find that the shift from a merit to a location based student assignment rule decreases intergenerational mobility and increases residential inequality.

Friday, January 24, 2014 | 12:00 pm — 1:15 pm
Encina Hall, 3rd Floor

Freeman-Spogli Institute (FSI)
Korean Studies Program, Shorenstein APARC