Since the 1980s, the United States has experienced increased income inequality, which has fueled a variety of social, economic, and political concerns regarding the state of the American Dream and the true nature of opportunities available throughout the country. The U.S. has been lagging behind almost all developed countries in this form of mobility (The White House, 2013). One major contributor to the ability of impoverished peoples to climb up the socioeconomic ladder has been the attainability of education; however, common barriers to education exist in our society that have prevented the classroom from reaching its full potential as an enabler of equity. As a result, it becomes significant to study these barriers in order to understand how to create a fairer system. While many of the inputs of education are important to consider, one of the most critical ones is the methods which schools are funded with; this may not only have an effect on the status of the schools but have lasting ramifications on the life outcomes of the students that learn there. As a result, this research project tackles the following topic: what is the effect of school funding policies on economic inequality? The project employs an instrumental variable method approach to infer causality, utilizing a multitude of datasets on Census information, school district funding, and economic mobility spanning the last 4 decades. This is combined with innovative machine learning models to best model the relationship that is being investigated in this project. While this approach has been worked on in abstract papers for some time, this has not often been practically implemented into studying real-world datasets and issues (Pech and Laloe, 1997) (Xu, Chen, Srinivasan, de Freitas, Doucet, Gretton 2021). I hypothesize that there is a statistically significant relationship between certain school funding policies and the rates of economic mobility in their corresponding communities. If the hypothesis proves to be true, we will be able to ascertain this relationship and make detailed policy recommendations in order to help remedy this source of inequality.
University / Institution: University of Utah
Format: In Person
SESSION C (1:45-3:15PM)
Area of Research: Social Sciences
Faculty Mentor: Jing Yi Zhu