Educations tie to income inequality spans more than 100 years

WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF

A quality education not only benefits subsequent family generations but it also boosts earnings potential and helps reduce inequality.

 

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I’ve been discussing the impact that education has on social mobility and the role it plays in giving people who sometimes have no future a future, for a long time now, which is why I took the step and created XPotential University and created the Exponential Futures Curriculum. It’s also why this article caught my eye because, even though we all know how important education is, sometimes it’s easy to forget the need for change and continue to accept the long held status quo which, bearing in mind the upcoming “cataclysmic impact” that AI and automation could have on tomorrow’s workforce, and therefore people’s futures, shouldn’t be acceptable to anyone any longer.

 

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In this latest first of a kind study from the US that was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences researchers examined the link between education, including access to college, and income dating back to the early the 20th century.

The research draws upon a dozen nationally representative datasets on college enrolment and completion between 1908 and 1995 as well as tax data from more recent years. It is one of the first studies to examine this link over such an extended period of time.

The researchers found that income and educational inequality moved in lockstep with one another throughout the 20th century. The authors say previous studies of this topic, which haven’t examined data going so far back in time, did not reveal such a strong link.

 

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Their paper details how inequality in college enrolment and completion rose in the 1930s and 1940s amid rising income inequality; was low for Americans born in the late 1950s and 1960s, when income inequality was low; and rose again for Americans born in the late 1980s, when income inequality peaked. This U-turn indicates the nation is experiencing levels of collegiate inequality not seen for generations, the authors write.

“Long story short, the findings reveal that longstanding worries about income inequality and its relationship to college opportunity are warranted,” says Brian Holzman of Rice University’s Houston Education Research Consortium, part of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research and School of Social Sciences.

One notable exception was during the Vietnam War. For young people at risk of serving in the war, collegiate inequality was high while income inequality was low. During this period, inequality in college enrolment and completion was significantly higher among men than women, suggesting a bona fide “Vietnam War effect,” according to the paper.

 

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The researchers hope the paper will further demonstrate the systemic nature of the link between income and education and inform future work on increasing educational opportunities, particularly for disadvantaged people.

Source: Rice University

Original Study DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1907258117

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