Education and inequality

On my way back from the Happiest Place on Earth, I bought a book from the airport (Why do those little shops always have such good selections?) called The Price of Inequality, by economist Joseph Stiglitz. This book is rich in economically sound explanations for inequality and why it sucks for everyone (and isn’t merely a moral failing of the poor themselves.)

At one point, he says a few things about the impact of education on poverty that underscore the idea that education isn’t the end-all be-all to ending poverty.

He reported that “Poor kids who succeed academically are less likely to graduate from college than richer kids who do worse in school. Even if they graduate from college, the children of the poor are still worse-off than low-achieving children are the rich.”

So even when poor kids do better in elementary school, they are still less likely to graduate from Uni. And those that do are still worse-off than the wealthier kids, maybe even still poor. To an extent, then, it’s not just people pulling themselves up by their bootstraps; maybe it does matter what their parents do.

This also suggests that, while education is good, a larger, more systemic change is necessary to make people’s opportunities as equal as we would like.

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