Racial wealth gap may be key to other inequalities – Harvard Gazette

Around this time, college graduation rates began to decline and the overall high school graduation rate stabilized. For Goldin and Katz, expanding access to higher education could actually help reduce inequalities.

“You could eliminate a lot of the inequalities by increasing the education of people with limited ability to access and complete college education,” Goldin said.

The problem of wealth inequality is more extreme than income inequality since the former builds on the latter, Katz said, and their effects persist across generations. The legacy of the Jim Crow era and anti-black racism is expressed today in residential segregation, housing discrimination and discrimination in the workforce.

For Katz, who studies housing discrimination and its effects on upward mobility, public policies can be implemented to reduce residential segregation. A study co-authored by Katz with Chetty and Nathaniel Hendren, professor of economics, found that when low-income families move to less poor neighborhoods, with the help of housing vouchers and assistance, it is “Likely to reduce the persistence of poverty across generations.” . Chetty and Hendren, along with John Friedman of Brown University, were the co-founding directors of the now expanded Equality of Opportunity project called Opportunity Insights, based at Harvard.

Growing inequalities are destroying the chances of having a better life than the previous generation. Recent figures show that the richest 1% have seen their wages increase by 157% over the past four decades, while the wages of the poorest 90% have only increased by 24%.

“The American dream sort of shifted from a dream in which the nation’s economic growth was more shared through income distribution,” Goldin said. “Now it’s basically a lottery. It’s like we all go on, buy a ticket to the lotto game, and a few out of the millions are going to win it. And the rest of the people won’t share that. “

To keep the American dream alive and return to the era of shared prosperity, the government must act, Katz said. Goldin and Katz both believe that expanding investment in higher education infrastructure and access to high-quality college education would have a powerful impact on the lives of many Americans. This could be similar to the effects of the high school movement, which lifted millions of American families out of poverty in the first half of the 20th century.

“At the turn of the 20th century, we made it possible for everyone to go to high school,” Katz said. “We never did this for college, even though college is as essential today as high school was 100 years ago.”

Additional benefits of higher education

The economic payoffs of a college degree are great, but the social payoffs are also great, said Anthony Jack, assistant professor of education at the Graduate School of Education.

“The more educated workers tend to work in jobs that are more resistant to the recession and the pandemic,” said Jack, who also holds the Shutzer Assistant Chairs at the Radcliffe Institute. “They also tend to live longer, have better health outcomes, and be more civically engaged. Education means more than extra dollars in the bank. It is also the constellation of things that go with it.

But the road to university has become increasingly difficult, especially for those with low incomes, even as access to university for disadvantaged students has increased over the past two decades. A Pew Research Center report found that the number of enrolled undergraduates from low-income backgrounds increased from 12% in 1996 to 20% in 2016. Most of this growth has taken place in public colleges. two years and less selective institutions.

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