Working Papers

Does Locked Up Mean Locked Out?

The Effects of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 on Black Male Students’ College Enrollment


This paper explores one reason for the educational gaps experienced by Black men. Using variation in state marijuana possession and distribution laws, this paper examines whether the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, which increased the disproportionate incarceration of Black males, led to differences in college enrollment rates. The results suggest that Black males had a 2.2 percentage point decrease in the relative probability of college enrollment after the passage of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986. There is some evidence that drug arrests, particularly around crack cocaine but not marijuana, led to this decrease in the probability of enrollment.