Education and Social Mobility Study: Historical Impact of Catholic School in the African Diaspora

Building upon an earlier pioneering study by Wantchekon, Klašnja and Novta (2014) on the historical contributions of missionary Catholic schools in Benin, this project, led by Ernest Morrell, Leonard Wantchekon, and TJ D’Agostino, explores the holistic contribution of several Catholic schools, which served primarily African or African Diaspora populations. Some of the earliest schooling in areas of the African Diaspora were provided by the Catholic Church, and these schools often extended educational access to students of color far before other educational systems. This study looks to tell the compelling and sometimes complex stories of these schools by demonstrating, quantitatively and qualitatively, the impact of these schools on the lives of students, their children and grandchildren, and their communities, with an emphasis on social and economic mobility and civic engagement. The study’s novel cross-national longitudinal analysis employs a mixed-methods approach that utilizes historiographical, ethnographic, microeconomic, and anthropological methodologies to trace various long-term outcomes of students enrolled in historically black schools in the Southern United States (i.e. New Orleans), Jamaica, and an East African context.

The project has received research grant support from the Kellogg Institute for International Studies, the Center for Literacy Education, and the Ford Program in Human Development Studies and Solidarity.