headshot of Tolani Britton

Research Expertise and Interest

social research methods, higher education policy, economics of higher education

Research Description

Tolani Britton uses quasi-experimental methods to explore the impact of policies on students’ transition from secondary school to higher education, as well as access and retention in higher education. Recent work explores 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 - 2000.

Prior to earning her doctorate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Professor Britton worked as a high school math teacher and college counselor in New York City public schools and as a policy analyst for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris, France. 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.

Professor Britton received a 2023 - 2028 NSF CAREER award, a 2023 Association for Education Finance and Policy Early Career Award, an AERA Division L (Educational Policy and Politics) Early Career Award and a CIES Ernest D. Morell African Diaspora Emerging Scholar Award in 2022. She is a 2021 National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellow. She also received a Russell Sage Foundation Pipeline Grant for Emerging Scholars in 2020 and was a 2016 National Academy of Education/Spencer Dissertation Fellow. 

Recent publications:

College or bust...or both: The Effects of the Great Recession on College Enrollment for Black and Latinx Young Adults

Educational Opportunity and the Carceral System: Sentencing Policies and Black Men's College Enrollment

Does Locked Up Mean Locked Out? The Effects of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 on Black Male Students’ College Enrollment


Featured in the Media

Please note: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or positions of UC Berkeley.
February 3, 2021
Greta Anderson
Rises in state-level hate crimes can drive Black students to enroll at historically Black colleges and universities, according to a new study of hate crime and enrollment data. Experts say the findings illustrate the extensive work left to be done at predominantly white colleges to ensure students of color feel safe and welcomed. Dominique Baker, a professor of education policy at Southern Methodist University and co-author Tolani Britton, a professor of education policy at the University of California, Berkeley's Graduate School of Education, believe their study offers further evidence that when Black students are determining where to go to college, if there is racial turmoil in their community, they are selecting institutions "where they can thrive and be mentally and physically safe," Baker said.
Nov 5, 2021
Rebecca Kelliher

Studies repeatedly show that students of color in K-12 schools are suspended more often and more harshly than white students. Yet drawing from ten years of New York City public school data from grades 4 to 8, a new working paper coauthored by UC Berkeley professor Tolani Britton found that Black, Latinx, and Asian American students were less likely to face such exclusionary discipline when their teachers matched their racial or ethnic background.

February 2, 2021
Greta Anderson

A new study links increases in hate crimes to a rise in students enrolling at historically Black colleges and universities.

May 15, 2019
Tamara Gilkes Bott

A new study authored by UC Berkeley professor Tolani Britton finds that federal drug policy didn’t just send more black men to jail—it also locked them out of higher education.

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