Michael Hout’s latest work for the Annual Review of Sociology will be released in 2012, but he’s making no secret of his findings thus far: Participation in higher education does indeed “cause good things to happen” for disadvantaged populations. But, unfortunately, that still creates winners and losers in the United States.
“College education in particular pays off for those that get it. On the one hand, it provides a channel of opportunity for some people, especially those from lower-class backgrounds,” says Hout. “But for those that are left out, it actually contributes to American inequality because the wage gap between college and high school educated people is so great in this country.”
For Hout and his peers, there are severe hardships ahead for the U.S. economy if investment in disadvantaged students does not increase substantially. “In the 1970s, the U.S. was in a league of its own in terms of access to college. Most countries witnessed the success we had in transforming into a post-industrial, information-based economy and, now, have emulated it. We haven’t kept pace.”