Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Elite Universities Foster Inequality

Three principles are interwoven throughout elite higher education: (1) sustainability (of the environment), (2) diversity (women and minority students and faculty), and (3) reducing inequality (narrowing the income gap between upper- and lower-income households).

Principles 2 and 3 are somewhat incompatible with each other.  Female enrollment has surpassed that of males in undergraduate education and in most graduate fields.  Well-educated men and women tend to marry each other resulting in high-income households and well-educated children.

The income tax imposes higher rates on higher-income households, which reduces somewhat the financial well-being of professional couples.  It penalizes high-income married women or men, thus taking back some of the rewards of higher education.

If enacted, President Obama’s plan to raise tax rates on households earning more than $250,000 would further penalize professional couples.  Perhaps that is the price they are willing to pay to reduce inequality.