VOLANTE AND JERRIM: Education does not always equal social mobility

Louis Volante, Professor in Brock’s Faculty of Education, co-wrote a piece recently published in the National Post that explores education’s role in social mobility. The piece was co-written with John Jerrim, Lecturer in Economics and Social Statistics at UCL (University College London).

Volante and Jerrim write:

Educators around the world, particularly those in secondary schools, often default to a compelling story when they are trying to motivate their students: Work hard, achieve well and you will secure a successful future with attractive job prospects.

This is currently the conventional wisdom across much of the Western world, with strong links drawn between education, meritocracy and upward social mobility.

But what does the research suggest about intergenerational mobility? Do children from poorer backgrounds have the same potential to realize their dreams if they achieve high standards in their education systems?

In fact, education is important but not enough to change inequities around the world. Intergenerational mobility, referring to changes in social status for different generations in the same family, is far from normal.

Public health researchers Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett argued outcomes in social mobility and education are significantly worse in rich countries with more inequality, that is, with populations that show larger gaps between the wealthy and the poor. For example, the United States and United Kingdom have close associations between fathers’ and sons’ incomes, compared to countries such as Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway.

Wilkinson went so far as to jokingly comment in a TED talk “if Americans want to live the American dream, they should go to Denmark.”

Continue reading the full article here.

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