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Education, Income Distribution and Growth: The Local Connection

  • Roland Benabou

This paper develops a simple model of human capital accumulation and community formation by heterogeneous families, which provides an integrated framework for analyzing the local determinants of inequality and growth. Five main conclusions emerge. First, minor differences in education technologies, preferences, or wealth can lead to a high degree of stratification. Imperfect capital markets are not necessary, but will compound these other sources. Second, stratification makes inequality in education and income more persistent across generations. Whether or not the same is true of inequality in total wealth depends on the ability of the rich to appropriate the rents created by their secession. Third, the polarization of urban areas resulting from individual residential decisions can be quite inefficient, both from the point of view of aggregate growth and in the Pareto sense, especially in the long run. Fourth, when state-wide equalization of school expenditures is insufficient to reduce stratification, it may improve educational achievement in poor communities much less than it lowers it in richer communities; thus average academic performance and income growth both fall. Yet it may still be possible for education policy to improve both equity and efficiency. Fifth, because of the cumulative nature of the stratification process, it is likely to be much harder to reverse once it has run its course than to arrest it at an early stage.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 4798.

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Date of creation: Jul 1994
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Publication status: published as modified title: "Equity and Efficiency in Human Capital Investment: The Local Connection," Review of Economic Studies, vol. 63, no. 2, pp. 237-264, 1996.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4798
Note: LS
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  1. Galor, Oded & Zeira, Joseph, 1988. "Income Distribution and Macroeconomics," MPRA Paper 51644, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 01 Sep 1989.
  2. Downes, Thomas A. & Pogue, Thomas F., 1994. "Adjusting School Aid Formulas for the Higher Cost of Educating Disadvantaged Students," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 47(1), pages 89-110, March.
  3. Anne C. Case & Lawrence F. Katz, 1991. "The Company You Keep: The Effects of Family and Neighborhood on Disadvantaged Youths," NBER Working Papers 3705, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Glomm, Gerhard & Ravikumar, B, 1992. "Public versus Private Investment in Human Capital Endogenous Growth and Income Inequality," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(4), pages 818-34, August.
  5. Card, David & Krueger, Alan B, 1992. "Does School Quality Matter? Returns to Education and the Characteristics of Public Schools in the United States," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(1), pages 1-40, February.
  6. Cornes, Richard, 1993. "Dyke Maintenance and Other Stories: Some Neglected Types of Public Goods," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 108(1), pages 259-71, February.
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