Dissertation Research

Title: Three Essays on the Political Economy and Economics of the School-to-Prison Pipeline

Chair: Dania V. Francis (Economics)

Member: David Kotz (Economics)

Outside Member: Kathryn McDermott (Education & Public Policy)

Works in Progress 

“Carceral Schools and College Expectations: Evidence from the National Crime Victimization School Crime Supplement”


This essay examines the impact that carceral schools- which are mostly public high schools in the United States with prison-like environments- have on student expectations of going to and completing college in the future. A carceral school is defined as a school that takes on prison-like characteristics including police or security in schools, the use of metal detectors, and the use of other forms of electronic surveillance and monitoring of students. These schools have emerged in the United States alongside the school-to-prison pipeline trend, embodied by increasing use of school security measures, zero-tolerance discipline policies, and reliance on the juvenile criminal justice system for school discipline. The impacts of these trends are distinctly racialized, and disproportionately impact minority students in higher-poverty, urban schools. In this essay, I ask whether carceral school security measures negatively influence students expectations of whether or not they will continue onto higher education after high school. Using data from the National Crime Victimization Survey: School Crime Supplement, I investigate how attending a school that embodies the universal carceral apparatus negatively impacts student expectations that they will go to college, illuminating an important negative spillover effect of carceral school security measures on human capital accumulation. In my preliminary research, I show that visible and intrusive carceral security measures- such as metal detectors and locker checks- have a notable negative impact on students expectations of achieving higher education, and I explore mechanisms for why this may be the case such as internalizing messages of criminality, holding perceptions of injustice, and resource crowding out within schools.