Here are some things I’ve read or am reading recently (somewhat) related to my research topic, that I have really enjoyed. I’m calling it Econ of Ed even though these are all written by sociologists (and one journalist), but this just speaks to the point that if economists really want to understand inequality behind the numbers, read sociology!
The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantaged Students by Anthony Abraham Jack
What an informative, critical, and cathartic read for me (as a #firstgen). Jack follows a group of students at an elite college coming from distinctly different backgrounds and educational experiences: the upper-income students, lower-income students who attended a private or elite high school, and lower-income students from less resourced schooling backgrounds (the “doubly disadvantaged”). For anyone wanting to understand the transmission of inequality, even in the empirical “best” of circumstances”, this is a must-read and illuminates so many flaws in our higher ed system. Read Jack’s take on the admissions scandal as well.
Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy by Tressie McMillan Cottom
I can’t rave about this book, this author, and her writing enough. Tressie McMillan Cottom is a force. I actually read this when it first came out a year or so ago. McMillan Cottom shows us how for-profit institutions exacerbate inequality by preying on the marginalized. A lot of the findings of this book also speak to issues of credentialization outlined in this Roosevelt Institute report on student debt. On a personal note, I felt very validated as a budding economist reading this book, since a few years ago I recall noting in the NCES data the startling racial and gender segmentation in the for-profit sector (think trade schools vs. cosmetology and nursing assistants).
Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism and School Closings on Chicago’s South Side by Eve L. Ewing
Again, a force of a writer! In the depths of my imposter syndrome, I often forget why studying public schools is important. Not just important, but should be at the forefront of any progressive research agenda. Ewing reminds me in discussing why it matters to study Chicago’s school closings: “The people of Bronzeville understand that a school is more than a school. A school is the site of a history and a pillar of black pride in a racist city. A school is a safe place to be. A school is a place where you find family. A school is a home.” (155-6) Alongside preserving history, family, community, and home, schools are a massive and formative interaction that we all have with the state, and one we still feel ownership over. Schools hold the possibility of a space of progressive transformation.
The Warm of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson
I’m still only a small bit through this one, but it goes beyond “epic”. Here are some reviews from NYTimes and the New Yorker. I really look forward to finishing this one.
Thick and Other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom
Okay, this isn’t really economics or dissertation related at all, but everyone should read this if you want to understand racism, inequality, capitalism, patriarchy, and so on and so on. Here’s an emotional and painful excerpt on her experience with medical racism.
That’s all for now. What else should I read?