FORBES: Skills-Based Education Can Help Solve The Inequality Puzzle

Career College Central Summary:

  • Income inequality has been a dominant topic of debate in recent months and will likely influence the coming presidential race. A common argument advanced by fans of inequality economist Thomas Piketty is that, relative to Europe, income inequality in the United States is undermining the economic opportunities of low-income Americans. Yet noticeably absent from this conversation is an in-depth comparison of American and European education systems. A close look reveals that despite the best intentions from civil rights activists, American educational pathways are having a profoundly negative impact on earning potential among members of low-income communities, who deserve much better.
  • America lags behind most European nations in providing young people with middle-skilled, technical training. This is having a deleterious effect on the life prospects of workers from disadvantaged backgrounds. Research from Harvard University shows that only 2 percent of U.S. high school students concentrate in vocational educational programs, compared with almost 50 percent in Europe’s most economically competitive nations. In Austria, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland, between 40 and 70 percent of high school students select an educational program that combines academic instruction with real-world job training.
  • These young Europeans finish high school with the equivalent of a technical degree from an American community college. Should they choose to extend their academic education they have that option, but if not, they have a basic skills floor to build upon. It’s no wonder then—despite some unrelated anti-growth policies American policymakers eschew—that youth unemployment is lower in all these countries than in the United States. Youth unemployment is higher in some countries with better skills-based training, but these places have fewer, broad-based economic freedoms than the United States.

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