Must-Read: Matt Bruenig: Why Education Does Not Fix Poverty

Must-Read: Matt Bruenig: Why Education Does Not Fix Poverty: “Brookings and the American Enterprise Institute claim to have hatched a bipartisan consensus plan for reducing poverty…

…The consensus plan will focus on three things: education, marriage, and work…. Since 1991, we have done precisely what the education-focused poverty people said to do. Between 1991 and 2014, we steadily reduced the share of adults in the ‘less than high school’ and ‘high school’ bins and increased the share of adults in every other bin…. [But] the poverty rate for each educational bin went up over this time and overall poverty didn’t decline at all. In fact it went up…. As the adults migrated up the educational bins, they took the poverty into the higher educational bins with them…. There are a number reasons why aggregate education gains do not necessarily translate into aggregate poverty declines. I will discuss three…. First, handing out more high school and college diplomas doesn’t magically create more good-paying jobs…. Second, having more education does not necessarily increase people’s productive capacity…. Third, poverty is really about non-working people…. Old-age, disability, unemployment, having children do not go away just because you have a better degree…. To the extent that education does nothing to provide better income support for those who do find themselves in these vulnerable situations, its effect on overall poverty levels will always be weak, or, as with the US in the last 23 years, totally nonexistent…

December 11, 2015


Brad DeLong
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