Resisting Education

39 Pages Posted: 5 Jul 2013 Last revised: 20 Jun 2016

See all articles by Jean-Paul Carvalho

Jean-Paul Carvalho

University of California, Irvine - Department of Economics

Mark Koyama

George Mason University - Department of Economics; George Mason University - Mercatus Center

Date Written: May 15, 2016


We study a setting in which the education system privileges some identities and marginalizes others. When the ideal identity prescribed by the education system evolves with the composition of the educated subpopulation, persistent educational inequality can emerge even when communities are ex ante identical in terms of productivity. We show that historically marginalized communities underinvest in education as a form of cultural resistance. Uniform growth in economic returns to education mitigates identity-based resistance to education. Uneven growth ex- acerbates it. In disadvantaged communities, rates of education may fall even as their economic returns to education rise. We show how a policymaker would intervene to minimize educational inequality, maximize rates of education and assimilate a minority community. Without appropriate economic incentives for education, cultural measures aimed at assimilation can backfire. We illustrate the insights and policy implications of our analysis through a series of examples.

Keywords: education, identity, inequality, cultural transmission, oppositional behavior

JEL Classification: D10, D63, D71, I24 , J24 , Z12 , Z13

Suggested Citation

Carvalho, Jean-Paul and Koyama, Mark, Resisting Education (May 15, 2016). GMU Working Paper in Economics No. 13-18, Available at SSRN: or

Jean-Paul Carvalho

University of California, Irvine - Department of Economics ( email )

3151 Social Science Plaza
Irvine, CA 92697-5100
United States

Mark Koyama (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Department of Economics ( email )

4400 University Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States


George Mason University - Mercatus Center ( email )

3434 Washington Blvd., 4th Floor
Arlington, VA 22201
United States

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