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Sunday, January 09, 2011

"Two and a Half Cheers for Education"

Lane Kenworthy has an interesting new paper on the impact of education on income inequality, mobility, employment, and other social outcomes:

Two and a Half Cheers for Education, by Lane Kenworthy December 17, 2010, First Draft: Tony Blair's suggestion in 1996 that New Labour's top three priorities would be "education, education, education" encapsulates a view that schooling and learning should at the core of social democratic economic and social policy.[1] The New Labour governments' subsequent failure to reduce income inequality or increase social mobility in the United Kingdom has bred skepticism about education's importance.
Skeptics are right that education is not a cure-all. But that should not diminish its centrality to the social democratic project. Good and broadly dispersed schooling is not sufficient for low inequality or high mobility, but it almost certainly helps. Moreover, schooling is key to achieving a number of other social democratic aims. It ought to be front and center in a social democratic agenda for the twenty-first century.

Let's begin with income inequality. Social democrats are right to worry about high inequality. It is objectionable on normative grounds, given the massive impact of luck in determining where each person ends up in the distribution. It also may have ill effects on other social, economic, and political outcomes, such as health and democracy.

If we compare across individuals in a society, we find that those with more education tend to earn more. This suggests that increasing the education of others might reduce income inequality.

Unfortunately, while equalizing schooling almost certainly would help to reduce income inequality, its influence is likely to be swamped by other factors. ...[continue]...

    Posted by on Sunday, January 9, 2011 at 09:19 AM in Economics, Income Distribution | Permalink  Comments (49)


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