May 26, 2007

Americas secondary enrollment trace, late 20th c.

Thanks to a a great Excel chart tip, I can now provide one way of summarizing synthetic-cohort educational attainment data from the following countries using census data from the second half of the 20th century:

  • Brazil
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • Ecuador
  • Those born in Mexico and enumerated in either Mexico or the U.S. in 1960, 1970, 1990, or 2000
  • United States
  • Venezuela

All of this is courtesy of the International Public Use Microdata Sample library, a wonderful resource available without use charge to any researcher in the world. You can download this Excel file with the relevant chart and use the scroll bar on the right to highlight the key data from any country, period, and sex combination. More in the full entry...


Very roughly, each line indicates the proportion at each age that would have completed secondary education but only secondary education (no university degree), if a hypothetical cohort went through ages 15-35 with the same educational experiences implied for the intercensal period by the census microdata at each end of the period in question.

There are the usual number of quirks and quibbles—quirkles?—embodied in this chart, from some key model issues to the algorithmic details:

  • The census estimates at the base of this chart start with only those born in the country, with the exception of Mexico (explained below)
  • I assume that there is no substantial differential mortality by educational attainment for the years in question
  • I assume similarly that out-migration does not substantially affect attainment (again with the exception of Mexico)
  • I estimate the cross-sectional proportion with a credential at an exact age as the average of the proportions in surrounding single-year age intervals, smoothed in the case of the Latin American countries at many ages as three-year averages (in the age intervals). Many of the increments are again smoothed with moving three-year averages and then fixed at 0 if slightly negative.
  • The model I'm using (from Carl Schmertmann's 2002 article [$]) is an estimate of intercensal increments without weighting by person-years, unlike most intercensal estimate techniques.

Of all these issues, the migration assumptions are the ones that will raise the most eyebrows, and I hope that if you've read this far, you're wondering why I combined the U.S. and Mexico census data. The basic answer to the latter question is because I could. Both Mexico and the U.S. conducted censuses in 1960, 1970, 1990, and 2000, and I was curious if the results would be affected by including U.S. residents born in Mexico. I discovered that for some ages (older teens and those in their 20s), more than 10% of those born in Mexico were residing in the U.S. for some of the censuses. That's a fascinating statistic in itself, and the existence of the same-year censuses suggests a potential for cross-national social histories using the censuses in question. I'm still puzzling over questions of "effects," since we don't know who spent which years where from the census stats, just the end result for the population as a whole.

I used the secondary-and-only-secondary-attainment line because it shows both secondary and college attainment. The up-slope shows secondary attainment, and the downslope shows college attainment (absent some late secondary graduation).

Bon appetit!

Oh, yes: For those following these things, my son's team won their first tournament game today, 14-2 (ten-run rule after four innings). By doing so, they've saved their #2 and #3 pitchers for tomorrow's game. Then everything gets harried, regardless of the results, and all teams go through their experienced pitchers. Spahn and Sain, then pray for rain?

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Posted in Research on May 26, 2007 4:58 PM |