Daniel Lemire's blog

, 9 min read

College and inequality

9 thoughts on “College and inequality”

  1. lion137 says:

    I was always thinking why socialism is so attractive for intelligent people (suppose to be academics), cause in essence it’s theft.

  2. Socialism is attractive to empathetic people. Intelligence does not seem to factor into it (there are very smart people at both political extremes).

    My own view is that further education needs to be delivered in smaller, more specific chunks, available at any time over people’s entire lives. What we have now is a kind of “finishing school” for the middle and upper classes, teaching 70-90% stuff that they will never ever use again.

  3. Mark ST says:

    Here’s the Duolingo founder Luis von Ahn (who’s from Guatemala) expressing a similar sentiment as Daniel about education and inequality, and doing something to actually address this problem (unlike the leftists):

    I’m not sure about subsidising community colleges. Bryan Caplan talked about how the kind of people who don’t finish a 4-year college are also likely the people who don’t finish a 2-year college. (Most of the benefit of colleges comes from finishing, not attending.)

  4. Mateusz says:

    You prepare the entire story to frame these guys as wrong? Because they do not decide to teach at the worse colleges and do not touch on the issue that you decided to discuss here?

    You’d do them more justice by evaluating their words and what they advocate. Strangely, you admit yourself that you are “not concerned about inequality”. So you attack them on the basis that they care about inequality, and take action to improve the situation. It is just not the action you recommend here.

    What do the left advocate? How are they fighting the inequality? Don’t they already recommend investing more into schools in general? How are their points standing against yours?

    Whereas I enjoyed the information provided here, but it reads this way: “if you (left) cared, you’d do this rather than what you are doing, whatever it is you are doing”.

    1. You prepare the entire story to frame these guys as wrong?


      Because they do not decide to teach at the worse colleges (…)

      So a college catering to poorer people is a “worse college”?

      I don’t personally believe that elite institutions are intrinsically better.

      Don’t they already recommend investing more into schools in general? How are their points standing against yours?

      Do they recommend that vocational schools and community colleges receive better funding than elite schools (like the ones they spent their lives in)? I don’t think so. Yet if they were genuinely trying to achieve a more egalitarian society, I submit to you that it is what they would do.

      1. Mateusz says:

        So a college catering to poorer people is a “worse college”?

        Do you think that’s an unreasonable assumption?

        I think you’ve cherry picked here. It’d be best to compare your points against theirs. That’s the crucial part.

        Note that you picked the representatives of “the left”. In England, the left actually promotes investing more into schools which are underfunded. The idea of grammar schools being subsidised schools for the upper middle class is a frequently discussed topic. This is despite the fact that they were not supposed to play that role.

        I believe that education should be free for everyone, the way it works in most of EU. I cannot see how anyone would not agree that poor schools should see the right amount of funding. However, you have never said that the people you picked disagree with this statement, rather you made it look that way because they do not actively promote this issue. I think that’s the framing part.

        Not considering the problems that your chosen “left” tries to tackle is a big omission. I bet that wall street problem’s impact on the US public (not just the students) in terms of $ is several orders of magnitudes larger.

        1. The position I defended in my blog post is that free higher-education is not actually egalitarian.

          My argument is simple. To be egalitarian, the subsidies should benefit the people from the lowest quintile more than they benefit people from the top 1%.

          You will find that kids from the top 1% are much, much more likely to attend the London School of Economics than kids from the bottom 20%. Yet the London School of Economics will receive, per student, a much better funding than a random vocational college.

          There are many ways you could achieve an egalitarian goal, but they all imply that elite schools would be funded much less than schools catering to poor people.

          If you followed this logic, of favoring schools catering to the poor, then you might find that working in such a school is actually better than working in an elite school. Elite schools would need to work extra hard, without so much help from the government.

          I don’t need to prove that Graeber and Piketty do not favor vocational schools over elite schools. The fact is that they chose to work at the most elitist schools. If they think that these schools should receive much weaker funding compared to more egalitarian schools, then they have the burden of proof.

          1. Mateusz says:

            I see what you mean, although I am going to stick to the point that your ending moral condemning Graeber and Piketty is not right.

            It’s equivalent to saying that “they work at an elitist college therefore they are not really supporting more egalitarian society”.

            The burden is on them, meaning “they have to show now how they strive to achieve a more egalitarian society”. However, that’s most likely available information that you have not researched.

            One might support the idea of a more egalitarian society without sacrificing one’s career, particularly when it is just not necessary.

  5. Ben says:

    Charles Murray covered some similar topics in his book Coming Apart.

    As someone who’s more often than not in sympathy with the goals of the American left, I find myself more and more frustrated with the tactics and arguments associated with that group. I think a big part of that problem (from my perspective) is related to (some) professional and academic leftists completely losing touch with the working class.