Curriculum Federal File

Addressing Income Inequality

By Lynn Olson — February 13, 2007 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Economists have hotly debated the underlying causes for rising income inequality in the United States and the extent to which investments in education could help address the problem.

Now Ben S. Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, has weighed in on the debate.

BRIC ARCHIVE

In a speech last week before the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Bernanke described the large wage returns on education and skill as “likely the single greatest source of the long-term increase in inequality.”

“A substantial body of research demonstrates that investments in education and training pay high rates of return both to individuals and to the society at large,” he said on Feb. 6, according to a transcript of the event. “That research also suggests that workers with more education are better positioned to adapt to changing demands in the workplace.”

Mr. Bernanke, who succeeded Alan Greenspan as Federal Reserve chairman a year ago, defined education broadly, noting: “Substantial economic benefits may result from any form of training that helps individuals acquire economically and socially useful skills, including not only K-12 education, college, and graduate work but also on-the-job training, coursework at community colleges and vocational schools, extension courses, online education, and training in financial literacy.”

“The market incentives for individuals to invest in their own skills are strong, and the expanding array of educational offerings available today allows such investment to be as occupationally focused as desired and to take place at any point in an individual’s life,” Mr. Bernanke added.

But the chairman echoed many other economists in stressing the importance of starting early, pointing to research that has documented the high returns that early-childhood programs can pay in subsequent educational attainment and lower rates of social problems, such as teenage pregnancy and welfare dependency.

“The most successful early-childhood programs appear to be those that cultivate both cognitive and noncognitive skills and that engage families in stimulating learning at home,” he said.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the February 14, 2007 edition of Education Week

Events

Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Curriculum Opinion Media Coverage of Critical Race Theory Misses the Mark
News accounts of critical race theory focus on topics that are not particularly controversial, while neglecting those that are.
4 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Curriculum A 'War on Books': Conservatives Push for Audits of School Libraries
After Texas banned critical race theory in schools, battles grew heated in the conservative suburbs surrounding the state's largest cities.
Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Los Angeles Times
12 min read
Image of books.
iStock/Getty
Curriculum Texas Lawmaker Demands Districts Provide Lists of Books on Racism, Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ
The Texas attorney general candidate's request has received criticism from educator groups who say the inquiry is politically motivated.
Eleanor Dearman, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
3 min read
Image of books on a library shelf.
iStock/Getty
Curriculum Teachers' Use of Standards-Aligned Curricula Slowed During the Pandemic
More math teachers are using standards-aligned materials than English/language arts teachers, according to RAND survey results.
4 min read
Illustration of a grading rubric.
priyanka gupta/iStock/Getty