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Kearney research featured in the Washington Post

Expanding access to college education raises the median income, but does little to close the gap between rich and poor

Education alone may not be the magic bullet to solving America’s problem with income inequality, according to a study by MPRC faculty associate Melissa Kearney and her collaborators, Larry Summers and Brad Hershbein. They calculated what would happen if they could magically give a college education to 6.8 million American men who currently lack one. Median earnings would increase by about 9 percent, or about $3,020 per year. But the gap between the rich and the poor is currently so large that even these significant gains would do very little to reduce overall inequality. The Gini coefficient, which is a common measure of the disparity between rich and poor, would only decline very slightly. Hershbein, Kearney, and Summers conclude that creating opportunities for poor and less educated people to find work that pays well is an important goal, but will not necessarily accomplish a more equitable distribution of wealth without policy changes that address the disproportionate accumulation of wealth at the top.

Read the article in the Washington Post

Read a related article on PBS