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Whither Opportunity? Rising Inequality, Schools, and Children’s Life Chances

Greg Duncan, UC Irvine
Jul 19, 2012 from 12:00 PM to 01:30 PM (America/Los_Angeles / UTC-700)
1130 K Street, Room LL3, Sacramento
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America has always taken pride in being the land of opportunity, a country in which hard work and sacrifice result in a better life for one’s children.  For the first three-quarters of the twentieth century, economic growth, fueled in large part by the increasing educational attainments of successive generations of Americans, was a rising tide that lifted the boats of the rich and poor alike.  In contrast, during the last three decades, the gap between the incomes of the nation’s rich and poor families has grown enormously. Little noticed, but vital for nation’s future prosperity, is that the gap between the educational attainments of children raised in rich and poor families has also grown markedly during this period.  This pattern portends diminishing economic opportunities for low-income children in the next generations of Americans.  Duncan will explain the forces that have translated growing gaps in family incomes into growing gaps in educational outcomes – and what we can do about it.

G_DuncanGreg Duncan is Distinguished Professor in the Department of Education at the University of California, Irvine. With a 1974 Ph.D. in Economics, Duncan spent the first two decades of his career at the University of Michigan working on, and ultimately directing, the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) data collection project, which, in 2001, was named by the National Science Foundation to be one of the 50 most significant NSF-funded projects in the organization’s history.

Beginning in the late 1980s, Duncan engaged in a number of interdisciplinary research networks and began to focus on the impacts of family and neighborhood conditions on children’s cognitive and behavioral development.  During his 1995-2008 tenure at Northwestern University, he was the Edwina S. Tarry Professor in the School of Education and Social Policy. He coauthored Higher Ground: New Hope for the Working Poor and Their Children (2007) and co-edited Neighborhood Poverty (1997), Consequences of Growing Up Poor (1997) and, most recently, Whither Opportunity: Rising Inequality, Schools, and Children's Life Chances (2011).  He was President of the Midwest Economics Association in 2004, the Population Association of America in 2008 and the Society for Research in Child Development (2009-11).  Duncan was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2010.

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