Education-as-inheritance crowds out education-as-opportunity

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Authors
Strand, Palma J.
Issue Date
2015
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Journal Article
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Education as inheritance crowds out education as opportunity
Abstract
Since the founding of our nation, education has been valued as a preeminent means of achieving equal opportunity and the social mobility of democracy. A generation ago, however, Professor John Langbein diagnosed a different function of education: the transmission of wealth from one generation to the next.
This article examines education as intergenerational wealth transmission through a critical lens. The primary inquiry is whether the traditional role of education-as-opportunity is being "crowded out" by education-as-inheritance.
The article first examines and verifies Langbein's diagnosis: Education today is indeed an important way to transfer wealth intergenerationally. The article next documents lack of access to education for those without economic resources, a lack of access that extends from birth through college. The article concludes by identifying flagging public investment in education as creating a vacuum that is being filled by the increasingly privatized provision of education. This privatized investment constitutes an indirect but real form of intergenerational wealth transmission, which dampens social mobility.
Countering this trend, increasing social mobility will necessitate a shift away from education-as-inheritance toward education-as-opportunity. More progressive public investment at all levels of education is called for to facilitate this shift.
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Palma Joy Strand, Education-as-Inheritance Crowds Out Education-as-Opportunity, 59 St. Louis U. L.J. 283 (2015).
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0036-3030
0036-3030
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