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Urban Schooling Linked To Lower Pay in Report

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Differences between urban and suburban schools are evident in the paychecks of young workers, according to researchers at Wichita State University, who say a study detected significant differences in the quality of schooling inside and outside the nation's cities.

Based on 1980 earnings data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the study included nearly 14,000 men ages 16 to 23 in the nation's 16 largest cities. The researchers found that the young men who were enrolled in or who had attended urban schools were paid 4 percent to 10 percent less than their peers from suburban schools.

"While the amount of education obtained significantly impacts on youth earnings, educational quality may be an important determinant of the earnings of youth workers as well,'' conclude Edwin A. Sexton and Janet F. Nickel in the study, published in Economics of Education Review, a British journal.

The study did not examine the factors of schooling that might have led to the earnings gap. But the authors say the findings support calls for upgrading urban schools.

"It could be argued that quality differences between our public high schools should be remedied on equity grounds alone, but when the potential short- and long-term impacts on earnings are also considered, the argument is strengthened,'' they write.

Racial Gap

The study found that the apparent economic handicap of inner-city schools affects black students more severely than their white peers.

The results showed that, on average, white students earned about 42 percent more than their black peers.

Much of the difference can be attributed to lower levels of schooling and a higher levels of urban residency among the black youths studied. But the researchers add that even if those factors were held constant, black students still earned 11 percent less than whites.

Removing the schooling and location factors led to a 6.5 percent pay difference between white and black teenagers and an 11.6 percent earnings gap between those in the 20-to23-year-old group, the study found.

"Our results lend at least some support to the notion that blacks would generally benefit in terms of earnings if they shared the same educational locations as whites,'' the researchers conclude. "Alternatively, if the problem is indeed quality and not simply location, it is evident that both black and white students would be served by upgrading central-city schools.''

The researchers note, however, that factors other than school quality might have contributed to the wage gap.

"Our measure of quality undoubtedly will be picking up socioeconomic differences between central cities and suburbs which are outside the control of schools in either location,'' the authors write.

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