The Long-Term Effects of American Indian Boarding Schools

56 Pages Posted: 7 May 2016 Last revised: 22 Sep 2017

Date Written: September 12, 2017


This paper explores some long-standing questions of the legacy of American Indian boarding schools by comparing contemporary Indian reservations that experienced differing impacts in the past from boarding schools. Combining recent reservation-level census data and school enrollment data from 1911 to 1932, I find that reservations that sent a larger share of students to off-reservation boarding schools have higher high school graduation rates, higher per capita income, lower poverty rates, a greater proportion of exclusively English speakers, and smaller family sizes. These results are supported when distance to the nearest off-reservation boarding school that subsequently closed is used as an instrument for the proportion of past boarding school students. I conclude with a discussion of the possible reasons for this link.

Keywords: Education; Development; Assimilation; American Indians

JEL Classification: I20, I25, J15, N31, Z1

Suggested Citation

Gregg, Matthew T., The Long-Term Effects of American Indian Boarding Schools (September 12, 2017). Available at SSRN: or

Matthew T. Gregg (Contact Author)

Roger Williams University ( email )

Bristol, RI 02809
United States
401-254-3160 (Phone)


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