From Urbaneconomics: The accident of birth is the greatest source of inequality


One thing that those most opposed to social insurance, redistributive and even just a basic safety net seem to miss is that not all success is due to effort or merit that are self chosen.  Education by your mother has an enormous impact on your success, and clearly you don’t choose this.  Here’s a nice piece on impact of early education from: Urbaneconomics

An NYT article points to an excellent presentation by Prof James Heckman, the most influential proponent of early childhood education, makes for very interesting reading. Prof Heckman has argued for a long time now that better teaching, higher standards, smaller classrooms and more Internet access have less impact than we think, when compared to more effective education before children step into classroom (0-5 years). He has argued that the growing disparities in skills and education among people can be effectively bridged only with early childhood education.

Furthermore, he says that apart from test scores (which do not measure the character that turns knowledge into know-how), ‘socio-emotional skills’ or ‘character’ too are critical to life-long learning and career outcomes. These include motivation, the ability to work with others, attention, self-regulation, self-esteem and the ability to defer gratification, all of which are influenced by early childhood environment. This in turn puts children from troubled families at a life-long disadvantage.


There is an excellent graphic on the returns to education, which clearly indicates that early-childhood and pre-school education generates much higher returns on investment than job-training and even schooling.

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The accident of birth is the greatest source of inequality
gulzar.natarajan@gmail.com (gulzar)
Tue, 04 Jan 2011 01:17:00 GMT

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One response to “From Urbaneconomics: The accident of birth is the greatest source of inequality

  1. I never would have thought of this. I’ll keep it in mind during my education courses (which are full of lamentation on the “degrading” quality of the American education system).

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