Schooling, Inequality, and the Impact of Government

Eric A. Hanushek
Julie A. Somers
In Finis Welch (ed.)
Published Date
The Causes and Consequences of Increasing Inequality
Chicago: University of Chicago Press
pp. 169-199
Much is expected of our schooling system. Schools are expected to provide the preparation that students need for successful entry into the labor market. In the aggregate, schooling is seen as contributing to the growth of the economy and the overall rise in real incomes of workers. Moreover, the school system has become a generally accepted policy instrument to alter the distribution of income in society and to bring about more equality. But the traditional focus – both in research and policy – on the quantity of schooling neglects the rising importance of quality of schooling. Moreover, expansion to consider spending on schools, the most common operational surrogate for quality, does not remedy the distortions in focus. Thus, when specifically considering recent governmental actions that are most related to quality issues, there is little evidence that the direct interventions of government have had much effect on the distribution of outcomes.