How Giving Women the Right to Vote Boosted Educational Attainment in the United States

A new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research authored by a group of three women economists, has found that women’s suffrage contributed to an increased retention rate of children in schools. Na’ama Shenhav from Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, Esra Kose from Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, and Elira Kuka from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, examined the length of time in school, literacy levels, and eventual income levels of teenagers who were 15 and older and who were about to finish school when women were granted the right to vote and compared them to children who were just starting school at the same time.

The results showed that education expenditures rose 9 percent in local schools after women got the right to vote. The effects were particularly pronounced in Black neighborhoods and those with large numbers of low-income families. The data shows that Black students who were born after women received the right to vote stayed in school on average a full year longer than Black students who were teenagers when women were allowed to vote.

The authors conclude that “the effects of suffrage are akin to the one-year increase in attainment of Black students from court-ordered desegregation.” White students in the South also benefited from women’s suffrage, seeing an increase of 0.96 years of schooling. The authors also found improvements in earnings among Whites and Blacks who experienced educational gains from women’s suffrage.

Dr. Shenhav told The Atlantic that “there are spillovers from policies that are not necessarily targeted at education. Policies that reduce political participation have implications for education policy.”

The paper, “Who Benefited from Women’s Suffrage?” can be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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