The Race between Education and Technology

Delving into The Race between Education and Technology (Harvard University Press, 2008) and its significance. A discussion with economists Claudia Goldin (Harvard University) and Lawrence F. Katz (Harvard University) of their latest book, which traces the co-evolution of educational attainment and the the wage structure in the United States over the 20th century.

Robert A. Margo (Boston University) and Richard Freeman (Harvard University) provide analysis. Moderated by Christopher Jencks of the Harvard Kennedy School.

A Harvard Inequality & Social Policy event, February 26, 2009.

More about this book from Harvard University Press

This book provides a careful historical analysis of the co-evolution of educational attainment and the wage structure in the United States through the twentieth century. The authors propose that the twentieth century was not only the American Century but also the Human Capital Century. That is, the American educational system is what made America the richest nation in the world. Its educational system had always been less elite than that of most European nations. By 1900 the U.S. had begun to educate its masses at the secondary level, not just in the primary schools that had remarkable success in the nineteenth century.

The book argues that technological change, education, and inequality have been involved in a kind of race. During the first eight decades of the twentieth century, the increase of educated workers was higher than the demand for them. This had the effect of boosting income for most people and lowering inequality. However, the reverse has been true since about 1980. This educational slowdown was accompanied by rising inequality. The authors discuss the complex reasons for this, and what might be done to ameliorate it.

Winner of the 2009 Richard A. Lester Award, Industrial Relations Section at Princeton University. 

Winner of the 2008 R.R. Hawkins Award, Professional & Scholarly Publishing Division of the Association of American Publishers.

Reviews and press

Summary article in the Milken Institute Review (3rd Q 2009), The Future of Inequality. Timothy Noah's article in Slate (Sept, 2010), "The Great Divergence," has a lengthy section on the book pp. 2, 13, 29-35.  Numerous columns and Op-eds in the New York Times by Nicholas Kristof (Nov. 13, 2008Feb. 15, 2009), Bob Herbert (Sept. 29, 2009August 2010), Stephen Kotkin (Oct. 5, 2008), and David Leonhardt (July 2, 2008Feb. 1, 2009) have concerned our book.  See also columns in Forbes by Thomas Cooley (Nov. 26, 2008), Joel Klein (Aug. 11, 2010), and Ben Wildavsky (Aug. 11, 2010).  Reviews include those in the Chronicle of Higher Education,  The EconomistEducation NextScience, and The Financial Times.

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