Moving up in America

A new Brookings Institution report highlights the role of education in social mobility. Key finding, from the NYT writeup:

The study highlights the powerful role that college can have in helping people change their station in life. Someone born into a family in the lowest fifth of earners who graduates from college has a 19 percent chance of joining the highest fifth of earners in adulthood and a 62 percent chance of joining the middle class or better. In recent years, 11 percent of children from the poorest families have earned college degrees, compared with 53 percent of children from the top fifth.

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3 Responses to Moving up in America

  1. Fred Argy says:

    Thanks, Andrew, the finding is not really surprising. It is consistent with other literature. But it underlines the need for better targeting of education in Australia.

    In my 2006 discussion paper on “Equality of opportunity in Australia” I wrote:
    “While structural change, freer markets and economic growth create ‘more room at the top’, the role of the State may be decisive in determining who fills these places.

    A broad based increase in education participation facilitates intra-generational income mobility but unless it is targeted at low-income families, education achievement can simply reproduce status from generation to generation. This seems to be happening in the US. Educated Americans have been investing heavily in their children’s education but there has not been a proportional increase in spending by governments on public schools and on tertiary education. As a result, people of low socio-economic status have participated less and performed more poorly than the middle and upper class”. End of quote.

    Is this a vision of things to come in Australia – despite our propspective “education revolution”?.

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  3. conrad says:

    Of course, you wouldn’t want to come to the conclusion that just sticking people into college from the lowest income bands would help them as much everyone else — there are sure to be other differences amongst the population groups also (as noted about immigrant groups). It would be interesting to look at populations like kids adopted into rich families and so on (not that they’re the same either), to get some idea of all the other factors involved.

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