In his column today, Paul Krugman takes on one of the few ideas everyone in Washington seems to agree on: that more education will fix inequality. As much sense as it seems to make, it’s not, you know, true — and this chart, which comes from Krugman’s blog, shows why:
If inequality was really about education, we would expect to see income growth sorted by education level: wages declining for workers who never made it past high school but rising for those who finished college. But as the graph above shows, that’s not the pattern. Rather, wages have stagnated for college graduates, too. What separates the members of the 99th percentile from their friends in the 91st percentile isn’t a college education.
“All the big gains are going to a tiny group of individuals holding strategic positions in corporate suites or astride the crossroads of finance,” writes Krugman. “Rising inequality isn’t about who has the knowledge; it’s about who has the power.”
But there’s a reason Washington prefers talking about education than power. If the answer to inequality is simply more education, than that’s relatively easy: most everyone agrees, conceptually at least, that a better education system would be better. But if the answer to inequality is redistributing economic power, well, that’s more controversial — particularly among those who currently hold the power.