Date of Award

May 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Member

Robert Tamura

Committee Member

Gerald P. Dwyer

Committee Member

Michal M. Jerzmanowski

Committee Member

Aspen Gorry


A lasting question in economic literature is how economic growth differs be- tween urban areas and rural areas of states. Are fertility, schooling attainment, and mortality higher in urban areas or rural? Where the Baby Boom has been documented in the U.S. for both the white and black populations, do we similarly observe an increase in fertility rates for the urban white, urban black, rural white, and rural black populations? Do we observe differences in access to education and levels of discrimination for white and black individuals on an urban-rural level? Also, how do the costs of schooling compare over time for white and black individuals in urban and rural areas? Starting with the first available urban and rural economic measurements in 1900, this dissertation characterizes how fertility, schooling attainment, mortality, and discrimination have changed in urban and rural areas by race in states from 1900–2010.

To identify how economic development compares in urban areas versus rural, the first chapter of this dissertation provides urban and rural measurements of fertility, schooling attainment, and mortality risk. From this data collection, we find evidence of steadily declining young adult mortality risk and infant mortality for urban and rural areas over time. We also observe increases in schooling attainment, with less disparity between white and black expected schooling over time in both urban and rural areas. As for fertility, this paper finds increases in fertility rates for urban white, urban black, rural white, and rural black populations during the Baby Boom. This paper then presents an urban-rural growth model for fertility and schooling. By closely fitting the model’s fertility and school- ing paired solutions to the observed data, this model generates calibrated cost of schooling values. We find that the cost of schooling, which impacts the decision of individuals to pursue further schooling, is greater for urban areas than rural. The second chapter turns to investigate how discrimination exists historically on an urban versus rural level by race. Using the calibrated cost of schooling values from the prior chapter of the dissertation, we can think about how much black individuals would have been willing to give up of their lifetime wealth to have faced the white cost of schooling in the same area, whether urban or rural. The amount that a black individual would relinquish of their lifetime wealth to face the white cost of schooling can serve as a measurement of discrimination. This paper constructs measurements of discrimination in urban and rural areas from 1900–2010. We find evidence of greater discrimination for black individuals in urban areas than rural areas leading up to the integration of schools. We also observe that after the integration of schools and the Civil Rights Movement, there is steady improvement across states and census divisions in access to schooling and equality.

The Sourcing of Data Appendix provides sourcing details of all data and any processes used in the constructed urban and rural measurements of fertility rates, enrollment rates and schooling attainment, and mortality risk.



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