Monday, September 28, 2015

On Education and the Wealth Gap

If this seems a bit different than my average post, it's because it's for a class... Sorry for breaking the fourth wall (then again, I usually do that. I just never talk about why I blog. Semi-related: I don't think I've ever blogged specifically for a class.).

Anyway, I recently read an article by John Marsh in my English book about access to higher education and its relation to poverty. Interesting topic, in my opinion, but that's perhaps because I'm directly impacted by the whole higher education discussion, and I've thought a lot about income inequality.

Basically the argument is that access to programs to help boost enrollment/education don't do anything in the grand scheme of fighting poverty and income inequality. He argues that programs like his, the Odyssey Project, which are aimed at getting gen eds out of the way and giving people who wouldn't otherwise have access to higher education get a jump start, are ineffective.

I have no personal experience with such projects, so I researched the link between education levels in general with income inequality. The goal was to settle it, because frankly I thought Marsh's argument was pretty solid - education guarantees nothing except education. We'd like to think that the fairy tale of keep-up-with-education-go-fight-win is true. Unfortunately the data shows that just isn't true. Education, per the studies I researched [side note: if you're really curious, I found three studies that I used for these conclusions: one by Andreas Bergh, and Günther Fink, one by Ronald H. Carlson, and Christopher S. McChesney, and then one by the amazingly named duo of  Péter Földvári, and Bas van Leeuwen.] doesn't guarantee income increases beyond the standard of living/average wage earning. In other words, that bachelor's diploma is a life raft in the world of wages and anything below that is just bobbing in the open water.

The researchers found that the higher the education, the higher the wage (duh) but what it proved wasn't the case was that education causes any real upward mobility, just a promise of stability.

I point that out for two reasons: 1) it's important for the argument and 2) I'll be able to sleep tonight knowing that this expensive college adventure is worth something more income wise than the Carlynton High School diploma collecting dust on my mantle at home.

The research is solid, and found that the wage gap is a thing (duh), it's widening (duh, just ask the Occupy people circa 2012), and education cannot be considered a cure for income inequality. The one study concerned itself mainly with enrollment figures and public funding. In other words, aid programs not unlike Marsh's Odyssey Project but more tax based, did not boost enrollment. In other words, these programs are ineffective at getting people in the door, let alone having them succeed in their bachelor's, which as previously established, doesn't guarantee much of anything past an education.

Education is important, and knowledge (especially applicable knowledge) is extremely important but it isn't the cure for the financial social ills of the world. I want to say this much though, it could be used as an aid in combating a major social ill of the world: mass ignorance and stupidity. 

I didn't want to depress you entirely, but I wanted to impress this much: education shouldn't be used as a mass cure for poverty. It's a fairy tale that someone somewhere started to get policies changed to force people into education without questioning it. I say we need to question education, and the education system in general, but I've said that for years. I just ask that you not consider it a cure for poverty, because it isn't.

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