No ed­u­ca­tion-in­come link?

Tampa Bay Times - - Opinion -

In the At­lantic, Rachel M. Co­hen says, sur­pris­ingly, that “a grow­ing body of re­search de­bunks the idea that school qual­ity is the main de­ter­mi­nant of eco­nomic mo­bil­ity.” Read “Ed­u­ca­tion Isn’t The Key To A Good In­come” in full at http://the­atln. tc/2yxwtn3. Here’s an ex­cerpt.

Broadly speak­ing, the idea is that if more kids grad­u­ate from high school, and achieve higher scores on stan­dard­ized tests, then more young peo­ple are likely to go to col­lege, and, in turn, land jobs that can se­cure them spots in the mid­dle class.

(Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia at Berke­ley econ­o­mist Jesse) Roth­stein’s new work com­pli­cates this nar­ra­tive. Us­ing data from sev­eral na­tional sur­veys, Roth­stein sought to scru­ti­nize (a Stan­ford) team’s work — look­ing to fur­ther test their hy­poth­e­sis that the qual­ity of a child’s ed­u­ca­tion has a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on her abil­ity to ad­vance out of the so­cial class into which she was born.

Roth­stein, how­ever, found lit­tle ev­i­dence to sup­port that premise. In­stead, he found that dif­fer­ences in lo­cal la­bor mar­kets — for ex­am­ple, how sim­i­lar in­dus­tries can vary across dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ties — and mar­riage pat­terns, such as higher con­cen­tra­tions of sin­gle-par­ent house­holds, seemed to make much more of a dif­fer­ence than school qual­ity. He con­cludes that fac­tors like higher min­i­mum wages, the pres­ence and strength of la­bor unions, and clear ca­reer path­ways within lo­cal in­dus­tries are likely to play more im­por­tant roles in fa­cil­i­tat­ing a poor child’s abil­ity to rise up the eco­nomic lad­der when they reach adult­hood. For Roth­stein, there’s no rea­son to as­sume that im­prov­ing schools will be nec­es­sary or suf­fi­cient for im­prov­ing some­one’s eco­nomic prospects. “We can’t ed­u­cate peo­ple out of this prob­lem,” he says.

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