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Why Won’t Education Fix Inequality? — ‘The Why’

Welcome to the newest edition of The Why. “Why won’t education fix inequality?” you ask? Good question. Timely too. (Plus it helps us put off questions about some of the odder stuff out there in the real world.  We always thought a “gobstopper” was just something you buy in a candy store, mmmkay?)


Why won’t education fix inequality?/Image: SPI

At least as far back as 2008 when The Washington Post was pushing Obama for president, education has been touted as the solution to inequality. Guest speaker Evan Horowitz of The Boston Globe, however, confirms that just because you’re educated doesn’t mean someone more ignorant won’t be driving a more expensive car or have a bigger TV.

He confirms that there is “mounting evidence that improving our education system won’t do much to fix inequality. “ He agrees that even if your education helps get you a better job, even college grads rarely get vaulted into “the top 1 percent.”

Not only are college degrees easier to get at some colleges, but for the past couple of decades getting a degree has been easier providing you could find the funds.  Horowitz points out: “Roughly one in three adults in the US has a college degree, while ‘the top 1 percent’ is a much more exclusive club. And if you’re not in that club, you’re stuck on the wrong side of the inequality divide — however many degrees you have.”

He is not devaluing education. It will always be a good thing to be smarter than the average idiot on the street of course.  (Yours truly has to remind his parents of this every time they speak on the phone, ya know?) Unfortunately, he confirms that the “inequality-fighting effects” of education have been significantly oversold.


Why won’t education fix inequality?/Image: OKRU

Education won’t fix inequality because as Horowitz confirms “modern inequality isn’t driven by the gap between college-educated workers and high school grads. All the action is at the top of the income ladder, where the extremely rich have pulled away from everyone else.”

Wages for those people have increased nine times faster than for the bottom 90 percent since 1979. Horowitz agrees: “It’s about the super-rich outearning everyone else — including college graduates, who haven’t gotten a raise in over a decade. “

He explains that “even if we did improve our schools — and even if those improvements really led to faster economic growth — there’s little reason to think the gains would be widely shared. They would likely be absorbed by the top 1 percent, as has been happening for decades now.”


Why won’t education fix inequality?/Image: THEC

There’s even data to support this. A research group from the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. created a simulation to test this. Horowitz notes “they estimated how different things would be if millions of high-school grads had made it through college. They found no meaningful change in overall inequality.”

Why won’t education fix inequality? Now you know.

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About Will Phoenix

W. Scott Phoenix, B.A., B.S. was born in Hawaii, raised in Pennsylvania and resides in California. He has been a published writer since 1978. His work has appeared (under various names) in numerous places in print and online including Examiner.com. He is a single parent of three children and has also worked as an actor, singer and teacher. He has been employed by such publications as the Daily Collegian and the Los Angeles Times.