As Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz describe in their book, "The Race Between Education and Technology," America’s educational progress was amazingly steady between 1870 and 1950, and the U.S. opened up a gigantic global lead, says New York Times op-ed columnist, David Brooks. Educational levels were rising across the industrialized world, but the U.S. had at least a 35-year advantage on most of Europe. America’s edge boosted productivity and growth. But the happy era ended around 1970 when America’s educational progress slowed to a crawl. Between 1975 and 1990, educational attainments stagnated completely. Since then, progress has been modest. America’s lead over its economic rivals has been entirely forfeited, with many nations surging ahead in school attainment.
This threatens the country’s long-term prospects. It also widens the gap between rich and poor. Goldin and Katz describe a race between technology and education. The pace of technological change has been surprisingly steady. In periods when educational progress outpaces this change, inequality narrows. The market is flooded with skilled workers, so their wages rise modestly. In periods, like the current one, when educational progress lags behind technological change, inequality widens. The relatively few skilled workers command higher prices, while the many unskilled ones have little bargaining power…

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