Social Mobility and early education

Well, here’s a post I know John F. is going to love.  Kevin Drum excerpts a chart from a Times article on social mobility that compares the US and Denmark on social mobility.  As he points out, far and away the biggest difference is on the ability of those in the lowest quintile to move up:

This, of course, has some very real policy implications:

So that’s the problem: lousy opportunities for the very poorest kids. They start out worse off than Danish kids, and they end up worse off than Danish adults. There’s no single reason for this, but one of the big ones is early childhood education. Danes do a much better job on this score than we do, and if we put more money and energy into this I’ll bet it would make a big difference.

Surely one of our great failures as a nation policy-wise is to do more to address this left-most portion of the graph.  Especially, since we pretty much know what we need to do.  It seems there’s just not the political will to spend money on poor kids, despite the fact that it gives you about the biggest bang for the buck as anything you can do.  Not sure if there’s any political science studies on public opinion towards this.  If there’s not, somebody should do one.

Also, Drum doesn’t point this out, but I do like the fact that it is significantly more easy for top quintiles Danes to fall into the bottom quintile.  That’s obviously what would happen to the Paris Hiltons and such in a more just world.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

5 Responses to Social Mobility and early education

  1. Mike Barr says:

    Is a comparison between a small and ethnically homogenous country and the US really a sensible comparison? The validity of the comparison is in the details. I’d be more concerned if it was Canada instead of Denmark.

    • Steve Greene says:

      The graph is Denmark, but we also trail Britain and Canada– just not as dramatically.

      • David says:

        Is this right? IIRC, the U.K. is the one advanced country we actually beat in social mobility. Of course, this is probably due to factors unique to Britain’s class structure. I could be wrong (and really would not be surprised if that were so) but I’m too lazy at the moment to go look it up.

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