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Symposium 2013

Solution for Inequality and Human Capital

The Challenge

Both advanced industrial economies such as the United States and rapidly growing economies such as China are exhibiting increasing levels of inequality and disadvantage. Recent research on the sources ...

Both advanced industrial economies such as the United States and rapidly growing economies such as China are exhibiting increasing levels of inequality and disadvantage. Recent research on the sources of inequality has begun the process of creating a new social science paradigm which integrates economics, psychological sociological and biological factors in order to provide a comprehensive understanding of the determinants of socioeconomic status across the life course as well as intergenerational mobility. This new work embodies a rich conception of the forces that underlie individual decision making that draws upon the insights of many disciplines. These insights are unified by conceptualizing inequality in socio-economic outcomes as derivative from inequalities that emerge in cognitive and noncognitive skills, which include personality traits as well as human capital and intelligence.

Create school communities where hard work and achievement are socially rewarded

Schools are not what is pictured by a traditional economic model: a factory in which the principal and teachers are the labor that transforms the raw materials, the pupils, into skilled graduates ready for college and careers.

Successful investment in human capital must appreciate that schools are full of real children and real teenagers. Not many third graders learn their multiplication tables because they want to maximize their future income stream. By and large, children and teenagers have a different calculus. They want to feel good about themselves. They want to fit in.

Successful initiatives incorporate what children and teenagers care about, what motivates them and how they see themselves in their social world. Investment in norms and community, along with books and computers, is needed to address fundamental issues of social and economic inequality.

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