The Journal of Economic History


America's Graduation from High School: The Evolution and Spread of Secondary Schooling in the Twentieth Century

Claudia Goldina1

a1 Professor, Department of Economics, Harvard University, 215 Littauer Bldg., Cambridge, MA 02138 and Research Associate and Program Director, National Bureau of Economic Research.


Secondary-school enrollment and graduation rates increased spectacularly in much of the United States from 1910 to 1940; the advance was particularly rapid from 1920 to 1935 in the nonsouthern states. This increase was uniquely American; no other nation underwent an equivalent change for several decades. States that rapidly expanded their high school enrollments early in the period had greater wealth, more homogeneity of wealth, and less manufacturing activity than others. Factors prompting the expansion include the substantial returns to education early in the century and a responsive “state.” This work is based on a newly constructed state-level data set.