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This work provides an historical analysis of the coevolution of educational attainment and the wage structure of the US through the 20th century. The authors propose that the 20th century was not only the American century, but also the century of human capital. That is, her educational system made America the richest nation on earth.


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This work provides an historical analysis of the coevolution of educational attainment and the wage structure of the US through the 20th century. The authors propose that the 20th century was not only the American century, but also the century of human capital. That is, her educational system made America the richest nation on earth.

30 review for The Race Between Education and Technology

  1. 5 out of 5

    Bryan Alexander

    I reread this book as I taught it in my class this semester (Future of Education, Georgetown University). It remains a powerful and very useful text. Goldin and Katz build a powerful model for understanding the shape of income and wealth inequality in the United States. To summarize their rich discussion far too briefly, if education can keep pace with new technologies, inequality can be kept in check; once education falls behind, inequality roars ahead. The former happened during the 1900-1960 p I reread this book as I taught it in my class this semester (Future of Education, Georgetown University). It remains a powerful and very useful text. Goldin and Katz build a powerful model for understanding the shape of income and wealth inequality in the United States. To summarize their rich discussion far too briefly, if education can keep pace with new technologies, inequality can be kept in check; once education falls behind, inequality roars ahead. The former happened during the 1900-1960 period; the latter's happening now. There's a lot more to it. The book begins, for example, by building up an economic model that sees investment in capital as complemented by investments in human capital (i.e., training and general education). In the telling, America took the lead in the latter by pushing ahead with greater requirements and support for secondary, then post-secondary education. Intriguingly, the authors offer the thought that this burst of schooling may have averted socialism's taking root in the US (87). By mid-century other countries caught on to the idea, hence the global revolution in education that's happened since. Golden and Katz also make the case for what they call "skill-biased technological change," the transformation wrought by new tech that requires new skills to work, and therefore new education. I was also nerdishly delighted in the enthusiasm the authors brought to century-old census forms. My students were interested in what the book had to recommend to us as we crawl through the 21st century. One conclusion was obvious: more education is needed! The trick is how to expand it, and what to teach. Many of my students were happy to see more tech training, which is understandable. But we ran up against the usual problems: how to reach the hardest-to-reach students (first generation college students, the poorest, the most marginalized), how to make college affordable beyond pushing student debt even higher. Perhaps the best thing about The Race between Education and Technology is that is throws new light on such conversations, giving us a richer historical understanding of how we reached this point. Strongly recommended.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jason Furman

    I've read a number of the papers that this book is based on but was thrilled to finally read it from beginning to end, Claudia Goldin and Larry Katz's book is truly a tour de force that has aged reasonably well since its publication twelve years ago, albeit it has aged some. The core argument is that wage inequality over the last century and a half is the result of a tug of war between education and technology. The technological part is skill-biased technological change which they view as a large I've read a number of the papers that this book is based on but was thrilled to finally read it from beginning to end, Claudia Goldin and Larry Katz's book is truly a tour de force that has aged reasonably well since its publication twelve years ago, albeit it has aged some. The core argument is that wage inequality over the last century and a half is the result of a tug of war between education and technology. The technological part is skill-biased technological change which they view as a largely constant, monotonic process of new technologies increasing the demand for more skilled workers (e.g., advanced manufacturing processes a century ago and computers in recent decades). By itself this would be a force that should always drive up inequality. The other half of the equation is the supply of skilled workers, which they argue was increasing rapidly in the first three quarters of the twentieth century because of the High School movement, the GI bill and more but then slowed. When the supply of skilled workers outpaced the demand for them inequality rose, and vice versa when it failed to keep pace. In their view this incredibly parsimonious explanation with basically one measured variable (education, actually is three groups), one assumed time trend (skill-biased technological change), and one outcome (relative wages), measured through only a few data points in the beginning of the century and annually since then, can explain almost everything about wage inequality in the 20th century and beginning of the 21st century. In their view it is "almost everything" because they also accord a role for institutions which explain the more-rapid-than-predicted decline in inequality in the 1940s and 1970s. But in their telling institutions only get a few paragraphs and only explain some of the timing, the overall beginning to end pattern is not affected by these institutions. Goldin and Katz are never explicit that they are trying to explain the wages of the bottom ~95 or ~99 percent, they make it sound like it is inequality as a whole but their work does not have anything to say about the top end, changes in the labor share of income, or changes in capital income inequality. They do not claim otherwise and I suspect with the increased attention to tax-based measures of overall inequality these days a current version of the book would be more explicit about what they do and do not explain--and their model does attempt to explain a lot. They also only briefly discuss how much inequality is driven by the education premiums they study and how the fraction of inequality explained by those premiums has changed over time, and in particular might have been fallen. Finally, assuming a constant exogenous rate of skill-biased technological change somewhat begs the question, and maybe the pace has decreased as productivity slows. All of these questions, and more, might take away some of the nearly complete explanatory power of their story which is grounded in a competitive model of labor markets, but would still leave a lot of explanatory power for it. The residuals in that explanation would then be filled, in part, by institutional explanations which place more weight on factors like the falling value of the minimum wage, decline in labor unions, and reduced bargaining power overall--all of which get only brief cameos in the book, a ratio that might be different if written today. The above concentrates on the core argument. But about half of the book is a fascinating history of education in the United States with a lot of contrast to education in Europe. Much more of this was new to me and really interesting reading. The core argument is that from its founding the United States had a more egalitarian educational system that was grounded in six virtues: (1) public provision; (2) numerous independent districts; (3) public funding/free education; (4) nonsectarian; (5) gender neutrality; and (6) open and forgiving. The result was many more Americans getting much more education than Europeans in the 19th century and first half of the twentieth century. In fact, many Europeans preferred their more efficient tracked systems and looked down on the wastefulness of America spending money on education for the masses who did not need it and did not have to meet high standards to get it. This worked out well not just for inequality (as discussed above) but also growth because even manufacturing line workers benefited a lot from an education as they were better able to take advantage of and implement technologies that increasingly relied on flexible skills. Of course, all of this changed as Europe caught up with and in many cases surpassed the United States. Goldin and Katz talk about bringing back / living up to the American virtues in education with more financing, equalization, support for college, etc. In keeping with the focus of their book, and their explanation of the rise in wage inequality, their policy recommendations dwell less on the minimum wage, labor unions and a more progressive fiscal system, but that is mostly because of the scope of the book, partly because of what they view as the causes of inequality, and possibly also a bit of a lag because the real value of the minimum wage, for example, has declined substantially since it was published. Overall we would be a better country if we did everything they say without any updating at all.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Marks54

    This is one of the most thoughtful books on the relationship between academia/education and the high tech economy that I have ever read. The basic punchline is that the problem with the economy is not that there are not good jobs out there but that on average, the educational establishment is not producing graduates in sufficient numbers and with sufficient training to fill them. Historically, education produced "positive externalities" for America, in that people left skills than we needed and This is one of the most thoughtful books on the relationship between academia/education and the high tech economy that I have ever read. The basic punchline is that the problem with the economy is not that there are not good jobs out there but that on average, the educational establishment is not producing graduates in sufficient numbers and with sufficient training to fill them. Historically, education produced "positive externalities" for America, in that people left skills than we needed and thus provided additional benefits to employers that they did not need to pay for directly. Now the situation is reversed and schools are producing people with not enough knowledge and skills to compete for the high value added jobs. The policy implications of this for business, government, and individuals are huge and continue to be relevant even as the "great recession" winds down - if it is doing that. It is also very well written - for a book on education, economics, and policy. There is also good thought provided to presenting the data upon which the book depends.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Travis

    So apparently the Obama economic advisors have been reading this book as well. Let me give you the run down. 1) From 1945 - 1973 there was shrinking inequality in the United States. People (in general) were reaching higher levels of education than ever seen in history and the gap between the rich and the poor was being reduced 2) Since 1973 - Things have not been as good. If you remove the top 5% of income earners off of any wage demographics then almost no one has seen their wages (purchasing pow So apparently the Obama economic advisors have been reading this book as well. Let me give you the run down. 1) From 1945 - 1973 there was shrinking inequality in the United States. People (in general) were reaching higher levels of education than ever seen in history and the gap between the rich and the poor was being reduced 2) Since 1973 - Things have not been as good. If you remove the top 5% of income earners off of any wage demographics then almost no one has seen their wages (purchasing power) go up. 3) America was once a world leader in every stage of education. It no longer is. Fix education, fix the United States. Great book overall. Sometimes though the data is overwhelming. The story the book tells is great and sometimes the data slows that story down and I think leads the authors off point and can loose people who are not Harvard economist. But I like the book and think if even if you only casually are interested in inequality, or education, then you will find this book interesting.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Albert Gubler

    Brilliant and well-researched book that gave me a fascinating insight into the history of education in the US during the 20th century. The prose is well-written and easy to follow, while the graphs and equations may put less economically minded readers off. All in all, a highly recommended book on inequality and some of the factors leading to it.

  6. 4 out of 5

    JFN

    It's tough to rate this book on a "like" scale, as it's pretty clinical -- written by two Harvard economists, it doesn't have a populist voice and isn't exactly what you'd curl up with with a cup of tea in front of a fire on a lazy Sunday afternoon. In short -- this is not pleasure reading, as many other works in this genre have managed to be (e.g., Whatever it Takes or The Death and Life of the Great American School System, which are as engaging as they are informative). But that's not what thi It's tough to rate this book on a "like" scale, as it's pretty clinical -- written by two Harvard economists, it doesn't have a populist voice and isn't exactly what you'd curl up with with a cup of tea in front of a fire on a lazy Sunday afternoon. In short -- this is not pleasure reading, as many other works in this genre have managed to be (e.g., Whatever it Takes or The Death and Life of the Great American School System, which are as engaging as they are informative). But that's not what this book seems to want to be, and that's fine. This book is for wonks, densely annotated and packed with data and formulas and not-exactly-self-explanatory charts and graphs and tables. That said, if you could rate it on a scale of usefulness, I'd give it 4.5 stars. It provides a very valuable compendium of data and assessments -- so handy to have so much pulled together in one place. If you're interested in American education challenges and are a lay person, I'd not start with this book, but it's certainly valuable -- and probably indispensable -- as you continue down this research road.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Andy

    This was a pretty good read, although the graphs and economic equations can be exhausting if that isn't your background (or even if it is). I would recommend it anyway since it gives a lot of insight into development of the U.S. education system and our current downfall relative to other wealthy countries. It's really refreshing to hear someone make broad statements about the state of our education system and have hard data to back it up. It doesn't hurt that the data has been collected and analy This was a pretty good read, although the graphs and economic equations can be exhausting if that isn't your background (or even if it is). I would recommend it anyway since it gives a lot of insight into development of the U.S. education system and our current downfall relative to other wealthy countries. It's really refreshing to hear someone make broad statements about the state of our education system and have hard data to back it up. It doesn't hurt that the data has been collected and analyzed by two Harvard University economists.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    "Goldin’s and Katz’s thesis is that the 20th century was the American century in large part because this country led the world in education. The last 30 years, when educational gains slowed markedly, have been years of slower growth and rising inequality." -NY Times "Goldin’s and Katz’s thesis is that the 20th century was the American century in large part because this country led the world in education. The last 30 years, when educational gains slowed markedly, have been years of slower growth and rising inequality." -NY Times

  9. 5 out of 5

    Rogerio Mattos

    The book was written by Claudia Goldin and Laurence Katz, professors of economics at Harvard University. It received two awards. A remarkable research on the relations between education, technology, income distribution, and growth. The focus is on the US but some comparisons are made with European countries. The text has a highly academic style but is very readable. The authors highlight the importance of American pioneering efforts in massifying education at primary, secondary, and higher educa The book was written by Claudia Goldin and Laurence Katz, professors of economics at Harvard University. It received two awards. A remarkable research on the relations between education, technology, income distribution, and growth. The focus is on the US but some comparisons are made with European countries. The text has a highly academic style but is very readable. The authors highlight the importance of American pioneering efforts in massifying education at primary, secondary, and higher education levels. Primary education achieved universal status at the end of the 19th century, and secondary education around the 1930s. In the early 20th century, American higher education was far ahead of Europe in large part as a result of the Morril Land Grant Acts of 1862 and 1890. The fact that the US was the most educated country in the world at the turn of 19th to 20th centuries is regarded by the authors as a major factor for the coming to prominence of American capitalism over Great Britain and the rest of the world. The book is full of empirical information. A great read for those interested in understanding the importance of human capital and why the US became the world economic leader in the 20th century.

  10. 5 out of 5

    can y

    "the race between education and technology" is an extended argument about how educational attainment and skill-based technological change form a neat supply-demand model that in term determines wage inequality. arguing against other hypotheses like globalization, immigration and automation as explanations, goldin & katz stress how the supply side of this model (educational attainment) seems to be the determinant factor. the simple yet elegant supply-demand model they employ may seem too reductiv "the race between education and technology" is an extended argument about how educational attainment and skill-based technological change form a neat supply-demand model that in term determines wage inequality. arguing against other hypotheses like globalization, immigration and automation as explanations, goldin & katz stress how the supply side of this model (educational attainment) seems to be the determinant factor. the simple yet elegant supply-demand model they employ may seem too reductive to someone with a more political science background since the book downplays the importance of labor market institutions, but all in all, the historical explanations combined with the data is enough to convert a skeptic to their cause. reading the book i had many "aha!" moments about how certain educational institutions function within different parts of the US. especially the historical middle chapters of the book tie everything together. the book is a work of social science and not a polemic that argues for a set of policies. that being said, it was successful in convincing me that education was (if not still is) the cornerstone of american excellence.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Pablo Tercero

    Very powerful , well documented account of the pace of education in the US from the early 1900 to late 90's and early 2000 vs the need for skills given technology's advancements. The slowdown of US education quality and quantity is systematically studied and correlated to inequality increase. While not for the faint of math-heart , the book is a great source for understanding the value of continued education , the recommendations at the end of the book are sound and very thought provoking. Highl Very powerful , well documented account of the pace of education in the US from the early 1900 to late 90's and early 2000 vs the need for skills given technology's advancements. The slowdown of US education quality and quantity is systematically studied and correlated to inequality increase. While not for the faint of math-heart , the book is a great source for understanding the value of continued education , the recommendations at the end of the book are sound and very thought provoking. Highly recommend this book.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mitch

    Normally I am a big fan of Claudia goldin’s work. She’s an amazing scholar, but this book is written in the dullest driest manner. The topic is super important but it was drudgery to get through. I’m not sure why but the final chapter on what to do next seemed thrown together. Sure there’s a footnote at the end of every paragraph, but the care put into the previous chapters is missing. And the writing is just as dull

  13. 5 out of 5

    Nicholas Rogness

    Great quant analysis of labor supply and demand by education levels and its link to wage inequality. Provided the analytical framework for my economics senior honors thesis! I would rethink their distinction between "skilled" vs. "unskilled" labor to account for the value of careers in the vocational trades for socioeconomic well-being. Great quant analysis of labor supply and demand by education levels and its link to wage inequality. Provided the analytical framework for my economics senior honors thesis! I would rethink their distinction between "skilled" vs. "unskilled" labor to account for the value of careers in the vocational trades for socioeconomic well-being.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    I read the first part to get the premise of the book, skimmed the middle, and the last two chapters. I was not interested in the studies or statistics but in policy prescriptions.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Will

    "The three topics of this book - technological change, education, and inequality - are intricately related in a kind of 'race.' During the first three-quarters of the twentieth century, the rising supply of educated workers outstripped the increased demand caused by technological advances. Higher real incomes were accompanied by lower inequality. But during the last two decades of the century the reverse was the case, and there was sharply rising inequality. Put another way, in the first half of "The three topics of this book - technological change, education, and inequality - are intricately related in a kind of 'race.' During the first three-quarters of the twentieth century, the rising supply of educated workers outstripped the increased demand caused by technological advances. Higher real incomes were accompanied by lower inequality. But during the last two decades of the century the reverse was the case, and there was sharply rising inequality. Put another way, in the first half of the century, education raced ahead of technology, but later in the century, technology raced ahead of educational gains. The skill bias of technology did not change much across the century, nor did its rate of change. Rather, the sharp rise in inequality was largely due to an educational slowdown."

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jysoo

    The authors gave an in-depth look on the interplay among education, productivity, and wage. What stands out are the breadth and depth of study. They discussed changes for the entire 20th century, and gave very detailed analysis on various issues of the topic. This book is certainly a gem for who want to study the topic seriously, but can be a bit too heavy for people with general interest.

  17. 4 out of 5

    University of Chicago Magazine

    Claudia Goldin, AM’69, PhD’72 Coauthor From our pages (Nov–Dec/14): "Delight in discovery: Economic historian Claudia Goldin takes a detective’s joy in gathering clues, analyzing data, and reconstructing the stories behind social issues." http://mag.uchicago.edu/economics-bus... Claudia Goldin, AM’69, PhD’72 Coauthor From our pages (Nov–Dec/14): "Delight in discovery: Economic historian Claudia Goldin takes a detective’s joy in gathering clues, analyzing data, and reconstructing the stories behind social issues." http://mag.uchicago.edu/economics-bus...

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jack

    A substantive but not particularly shocking portrait of the American century through the lens of educational access, with some glib proscriptions of how to throw money at the problem of the stalled curve of educational attainment in the US.

  19. 4 out of 5

    John Ihor Campagna

    Really good overview of the progress of wages, education, technology and their interaction over the past century or so along with how they contribute to the dynamics of inequality. Only compliant is that it can be a bit repetitive at times.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Vankooten

    An astute and scholarly investigation of the increasing inequality of education in our society.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jonna Higgins-Freese

    A disappointingly shallow analysis that attributes all workforce and income change to technology rather than structural economic forces such as declining wages, etc.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Fred R

    There are some basic questions about the relationship between education and technology that I think they failed to adequately address.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Catherine Johnson

  24. 5 out of 5

    S F

  25. 4 out of 5

    Marc

  26. 4 out of 5

    David Sinsky

  27. 5 out of 5

    Tom

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lindsey Uniat

  29. 4 out of 5

    Math

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ori Danieli

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