Confined Learning: Who Participates in Education While Incarcerated and What are the Benefits?
Rajeev Darolia

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



University of Kentucky

Primary Discipline

Educational Policy
Prison educational programs are popular because they are expected to increase ex-prisoners’ employability and stem recidivism. However, we know surprisingly little about who participates in prison education or the benefits of it. I will apply descriptive and causal quasi-experimental analysis to new administrative data on every prisoner released in one state over a 20-year period. I will first identify patterns in prison education program participation, completion, and sequencing, and analyze how these patterns vary by prisoner age, race, ethnicity, gender, and pre-entry education level. I will then delve further into one of the most popular prison education programs: preparation for the GED exam. I will estimate the effect of earning the GED on skill gains, recidivism, subsequent educational program participation, and post-release wages and employment. This proposed project will enhance our understanding of the complex relationships between prison education, demographics, and outcomes in-prison and post-release, and ultimately contribute to improved educational opportunities among an understudied group of structurally disadvantaged students.
About Rajeev Darolia
Rajeev Darolia is an associate professor of public policy at the University of Kentucky and a visiting scholar of the Consumer Finance Institute at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. His research agenda includes projects focused on higher education regulation, student borrowing, financial security, and transitions from high school to college. Dr. Darolia has published in education, public policy, and economics journals, including the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Journal of Public Economics, Economics of Education Review, and Journal of Higher Education. His work has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the US Department of Labor, and the Association for Institutional Research. Prior to joining UK, Dr. Darolia was on the faculty at the University of Missouri and served as Director of Research for the Institute of Public Policy. Dr. Darolia holds a PhD in public policy, a master’s degree in economics, and a bachelor’s degree in finance.

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