Locked Up and Locked Out: The Effects of the Anti-Drug Act of 1986 on Black Male Students’ College Enrollment
Tolani Britton

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



Harvard University

Primary Discipline

While research documents that rates of college access and completion have increased during the past several decades, the trend data also reveal differences by race and gender. My dissertation seeks to explore one possible reason why college enrollment and graduation for Black men has grown at slower rates than for other groups. I explore whether the disproportionate increase in incarceration of Black males for drug possessions and manufacture increased gaps in college enrollment rates by race and gender over two time periods- after the passage of the Anti-Drug Act from 1986 -1993 and after the passage of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act from 1995 – 2014. I propose to use a differences-in-difference-in-differences strategy that will exploit both the federal law introductions and variation in state laws with regards to penalties for marijuana possession and the variable levels of state spending for police expenditure and the criminal justice system. For my analysis, I will use three datasets: the Current Population Survey (CPS) October Supplements, the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), and the Criminal Justice Expenditure and Employment Data. I plan to present detailed trends and analyses of the causal effects of drug laws and enforcement on college enrollment and attainment by race and gender, with particular attention to the outcomes for Black men. The results could have implications for understanding educational gaps by race and higher education policy as the country looks to reform the criminal justice system, and in particular the treatment of non-violent drug offenders.
About Tolani Britton
Tolani Britton is a doctoral candidate in the Quantitative Policy Analysis program at Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE). Tolani uses quasi-experimental methods to explore the impact of national, state, and local policies on students’ transition from secondary school to higher education, as well as access and retention in higher education. Prior to entering HGSE, Tolani worked as a policy analyst for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris, France and as a high school math teacher and college counselor in New York City public schools. Her scholastic credentials include a Master of Arts in Economics from Tufts University, a Master of Arts in French Cultural Studies from Columbia University, and a Bachelor of Arts in both Economics and French Literature from Tufts University.

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