Rising Income Inequality Is Killing Efforts to Promote Educational Equality

October 7, 2011

Courtesy of Aaron Pallas’s “Sociological Eye on Education” blog at The Hechinger Report, we learn of this new book edited by economists Greg Duncan of the University of California-Irvine and Richard Murnane of the Harvard Graduate School of Education–Whither Opportunity? Rising Inequality, Schools, and Children’s Life Chances (Russell Sage Foundation.

According to Pallas, the book “demonstrates that rising income inequality in the U.S. is associated with growing inequalities in reading and math achievement, college graduation rates, and spending on enrichment activities such as music or art lessons, or travel.”

Pallas adds:

Writing in the Chicago Tribune yesterday, Duncan and Murnane argue that the consequences of this economic inequality are far-reaching. “Debating the merits of teachers unions, charter schools and test-based accountability,” they write, “all fail to address the core problem, which is that growth in family income inequality has eroded educational opportunities.

Duncan and Murnane are not arguing that school reform policies don’t matter. Rather, they’re suggesting that there are other policies that are much more likely to be successful in reducing educational inequality–high quality preschool education and income supports for low-income families, to name two. If we’re serious about improving equality of opportunity in American society, we’re better off attacking the root problem than tinkering with its consequences.


About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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