Education

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Education has long been central to America's vision of opportunity for all and remains key to both individual achievement and to national economic strength. Evidence indicates the American education system is not performing up to potential — high school graduation rates peaked at around 80 percent in the late 1960s and have since declined by 4 to 5 percentage points. Future increases in productivity in today’s knowledge-driven, global economy require that American workers continually advance their skills. The Hamilton Project explores innovative proposals to increase the effectiveness of the educational system and to boost the skills of all Americans.


Related to Education

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Profiles of Change: Employment, Earnings, and Occupations from 1990-2013

Papers • April 2015 • Melissa S. Kearney, Brad Hershbein

There has been tremendous focus in recent years on the plight of the typical American worker. In this economic analysis, The Hamilton Project takes a careful look at the data to examine what has been happening to America’s workers since 1990, paying particular interest to differences across workers with different levels of education. In addition, an accompanying interactive feature allows users to further explore these eight profiles by comparing employment, occupational, and earnings patterns between 1990 and 2013. 

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Increasing Education: What it Will and Will Not Do for Earnings and Earnings Inequality

Papers • March 2015 • Brad Hershbein, Melissa S. Kearney, Lawrence H. Summers

Scholars and public commentators have recently debated the impact of education on earnings and earnings inequality. Some have argued that improving education is not the sole solution to inequality. In this economic analysis, Brad Hershbein, Melissa Kearney and Lawrence H. Summers clarify the different elemnts of the public debate and note explicitly that these positions are not necessarily at odds.

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The Hamilton Project Policy Response to the 2015 State of the Union Address

Papers • January 2015

In his 2015 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama emphasized the need to restore the link between hard work and growing opportunity for every American: especially low- and middle-income citizens.  The Hamilton Project highlights policy proposals that are most relevant to the goals and ideas explicitly promoted in the speech and reflective of the current policy context. These proposals offer smart, actionable ways forward on each of the particular policy goals. 

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Major Decisions: Graduates’ Earnings Growth and Debt Repayment

Papers • November 2014 • Brad Hershbein, Benjamin H. Harris, Melissa S. Kearney

In a new interactive feature and economic analysis, The Hamilton Project explores how the current student loan repayment system often creates a heavy burden on recent graduates by having them make payments in the beginning of their careers when their earnings are low. The accompanying interactive feature allows users to calculate the share of earnings necessary to service traditional loan repayment for 80 college majors.

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Major Decisions: What Graduates Earn Over Their Lifetimes

Papers • September 2014 • Brad Hershbein, Melissa S. Kearney

The importance of a college education for the advancement of one’s life and career has been widely reported. However, there is much speculation about the likely trajectory of one’s lifetime earnings once they’ve chosen a major program to study.  To accompany a new interactive feature, The Hamilton Project explores the evidence behind career earnings by college major In this economic analysis.

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Back to School: Hamilton Project Papers Aimed at Early Learning, K-12, and Higher Education

Papers • August 2014

At the start of a new school year, The Hamilton Project highlights an array of policy proposals, economic facts, and economic analyses articulating the importance of education for the advancement and prosperity of Americans. 

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Policies to Address Poverty in America, eBook Download

Papers • June 2014

The Hamilton Project asked academic experts to develop policy proposals confronting the various challenges of America's poorest citizens, and to introduce innovative approaches to addressing poverty. When combined, the scope and impact of these proposals has the potential to vastly improve the lives of the poor. The resulting 14 policy memos are included in The Hamilton Project's Policies to Address Poverty in America. The main areas of focus include promoting early childhood development, supporting disadvantaged youth, building worker skills, and improving safety net and work support.
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Providing Disadvantaged Workers with Skills to Succeed in the Labor Market

Papers • June 2014 • Sheena McConnell, Irma Perez-Johnson, Jillian Berk

In this policy memo, Sheena McConnell, Irma Perez-Johnson, and Jillian Berk offer proposals to help disadvantaged adult workers with the skills necessary to succeed in the labor market. The authors call for an increase in funding in the Workforce Investment Act Adult program. They also propose a series of four steps that state and local workforce boards can take to better assist disadvantaged adult workers in obtaining skills. This proposal is chapter nine of The Hamilton Project’s Policies to Address Poverty in America, and a segment in Building Skills.

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Improving Employment Outcomes for Disadvantaged Students

Papers • June 2014 • Harry J. Holzer

In this policy memo, Harry J. Holzer proposes the creation of financial incentives for public colleges and university systems to offer classes in high-return fields and for employers to offer more training to their employees. This proposal, targeted at disadvantaged youth who have some academic preparation for higher education, aims to generate better labor market outcomes and wage gains. This proposal is chapter eight of The Hamilton Project’s Policies to Address Poverty in America, and a segment in Building Skills.

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Expanding Apprenticeship Opportunities in the United States

Papers • June 2014 • Robert Lerman

In this policy memo, Robert I. Lerman proposes a series of targeted federal and state-level initiatives to expand access to registered apprenticeship programs by creating marketing initiatives, building on existing youth apprenticeship programs, extending the use of federal subsidies, and designating occupational standards. This proposal, targeted toward at-risk youth and middle-skill adults in low-wage jobs, aims to improve human capital and raise earnings for apprentices. This proposal is chapter seven of The Hamilton Project’s Policies to Address Poverty in America, and a segment in Building Skills.

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Earnings of Those With Lower Levels of Education Have Declined in the Past 25 years

April 20, 2015 • Charts

Over the period 1990 to 2013, the real earnings of individuals with lower levels of education have tended to decline, while they have risen for those with at least a bachelor’s degree. 

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Median Initial Earnings Growth in Early Career, by Major

November 20, 2014 • Charts

Graduates of majors with initially low earnings experience faster earnings growth during the early-career years.

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Percent of Births to Unmarried Mothers by Education, 1970-2012

June 19, 2014 • Charts

Since about 1980, the growth of single-parent families has been driven almost entirely by an increase in childbearing outside of marriage, often the result of people sliding into relationships and having an unplanned baby.

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Labor Market Training Expenditures as a Percent of GDP in OECD Countries, 2011

June 19, 2014 • Charts

The United States does not currently invest heavily in vocational training compared with other countries, and funding for vocational training has declined over the past decades. The United States spends less than 0.05 percent of its gross domestic product on vocational training opportunities for workers. 

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Cumulative Risk of Parent’s Imprisonment for Children by Age 14, by Race and Parent’s Education

May 1, 2014 • Charts

This chart illustrates the cumulative risk of imprisonment for parents—or the projected lifetime likelihood of having served time for a person born in a specific year—by the time their child turns fourteen, by child's race and their own educational attainment. Regardless of race, fathers are much more likely to have been imprisoned than are mothers. 

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Highest Educational Attainment of Family Head, by Income Relative to the Federal Poverty Level (FPL)

December 19, 2013 • Charts

College attainment differs markedly by poverty status. 33 percent of household family heads below 100 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) attended at least some college, although just 6 percent of those family heads have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Among household family heads with income between 100 and 250 percent of the FPL, 48 percent have attended some college, and 14 percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher. In stark contrast to those living at or below 250 percent of the FPL, 77 percent of household family heads above 250 percent of the FPL attended at least some college, and about half have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Only a very small share of this group (4 percent) did not earn a high school diploma.

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Comprehensive Costs, Net Costs, and Instructional Expenditures per Student

July 18, 2013 • Charts

Surprisingly, the most competitive colleges cost the least for low-income students while providing the most instructional expenditure per student.  The most competitive colleges spend over $25,000 on instructional expenditure for each student yet the average low- income family pays less than $8,000 out of pocket for these schools.  At the least selective four year colleges, low-income families pay over $15,000 out of pocket yet their students receive only around $5000 in instructional expenditure.  

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Application Behavior of High-Achieving Students

July 18, 2013 • Charts

Although they have similar test scores and aptitudes, high- and low- income, high achieving students have strikingly different college application behaviors.  In this figure, panel A shows that high-achieving, high-income students tend to apply to colleges and universities where their test scores closely match the test scores of typical students at those institutions.  Panel B shows that high-achieving, low-income students mostly apply to institutions that are less selective.  Only a small fraction of high-achieving, low-income students apply to schools where their achievement is similar to that of their fellow student.  

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Returns to Education Compared to Other Investments

July 18, 2013 • Charts

Despite rising tuition costs and increased student debt burden, the rate of return of investing in a college education is still much higher than other conventional investments.   The average rates of return of receiving an associate’s, bachelor’s, or professional degree are all over nine percentage points higher than the average returns from investing in stocks.  Surprisingly, the return to attending some college and dropping out before graduating is 9.1 percent, higher than the return to investing in stocks, gold, 10-Year Treasury bonds, T-Bills, and the housing market.  

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Income Quintile of Adults Born into Lowest-Quintile Families by College Attainment

July 18, 2013 • Charts

The earnings of college graduates are much higher than for nongraduates, and that is especially true among people born into low-income families. As the figure shows, without a college degree a child born into a family in the lowest quintile has a 45 percent change of remaining in that quintile as an adult and only a 5 percent chance of moving into the highest quintile. On the other hand, children born into the lowest quintile who do earn a college degree have only a 16 percent chance of remaining in the lowest quintile and a 19 percent chance of breaking into the top quintile. 

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Lawrence H. Summer’s Keynote Remarks

May 4, 2015 • Lawrence H. Summers

The following are opening remarks written and prepared by Lawrence Summers, Charles W. Eliot University Professor of Harvard University for a Brookings even held on May 4, 2015: 40 Years Later—The Relevance of Okun’s “Equality and Efficiency: The Big Tradeoff. In Dr. Summers’ absence his remarks were read aloud by Ted Gayer, Vice President and Director of Economic Studies and Joseph A. Pechman Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution.

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Testimony of Melissa S. Kearney

January 16, 2014 • Melissa S. Kearney

The Hamilton Project Director, Melissa S. Kearney testifies before the Joint Economic Committee on income inequality in the United States.

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Testimony of Dr. Susan Dynarski

May 1, 2008 • Susan M. Dynarski

Hamilton Project expert Susan Dynarski testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on designing effective tax incentives for post secondary education.

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Day Two: Addressing America’s Poverty Crisis

June 20, 2014 • Washington, DC

On Friday, June 20, The Hamilton Project continued its two-day anti-poverty summit, Addressing America’s Poverty Crisis. Day two of the summit focused on policies to improve the safety net and work support, including the role of work-share and minimum wage policies to support American workers.

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Day One: Addressing America’s Poverty Crisis

June 19, 2014 • Washington, DC

Day one of Addressing America's Poverty Crisis opened on Thursday, June 19, with discussions around policies to build skills, promote early childhood development, and support disadvantaged youth. The day kicked off with a CEO-level discussion on the importance of apprenticeship and skill training, followed by three roundtable discussions featuring academic scholars and experts. 

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Addressing America’s Poverty Crisis

June 19, 2014 • Washington, DC

On June 19–20, The Hamilton Project hosted a summit to discuss a range of policy approaches for combating poverty in the United States.  The Hamilton Project released 14 proposals from experts around the country, each intended to tackle a specific challenge related to poverty, including new approaches to building skills, promoting early childhood development, and supporting disadvantaged youth. The authors of the new proposals were joined by public and private sector experts to discuss these ideas as part of our two-day event.

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The Economic and Social Effects of Crime and Mass Incarceration in the United States

May 1, 2014 • Washington, DC

On May 1st, The Hamilton Project at Brookings will host a forum and release three new papers focusing on crime and incarceration in the United States. Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin will deliver opening remarks, and Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) will join the forum to discuss the Smarter Sentencing Act of 2014, which was recently passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee with bi-partisan support.

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Improving College Outcomes: A Modern Approach to Financing Higher Education

October 21, 2013 • Washington, DC

On October 21st, THP hosted a forum and release three new policy proposals by outside experts focusing on the evolving role of higher education, and how changes in student lending and financial aid policies can help improve college outcomes. Thought leaders in higher education from around the country—including Vassar College President Catharine Bond Hill; LaGuardia Community College President Gail Mellow; University of North Carolina President Thomas Ross; Wesleyan University President Michael Roth; and Brookings’ Brown Center for Education Policy Director Grover “Russ” Whitehurst—joined the discussion to comment on the proposals, and provided their thoughts on the future of higher education in American society.

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The Economic Imperative of Expanding College Opportunity

June 26, 2013 • Washington, DC

On June 26th, The Hamilton Project at Brookings hosted a forum on the importance of expanding college opportunity for more Americans. Harvard College’s William Fitzsimmons and The Brookings Institution’s Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst were among the distinguished experts joining a roundtable discussion focusing on a proposal for targeting and reaching low-income, high-achieving students by Caroline Hoxby of Stanford University and Sarah Turner of the University of Virginia. In a second panel discussion, higher education leaders—including  The College Board’s David Coleman and Syracuse University’s Nancy Cantor—focused more broadly on the role of higher education in American mobility.

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Back to School:  Promoting Attainment and Achievement in K-12 Education

September 27, 2012 • Washington, DC

On September 27th, The Hamilton Project at Brookings hosted a forum to discuss new approaches to promoting attainment and achievement in K-12 education.  The event included featured remarks by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, highlighting recent progress on education reform, the difficult work still ahead, and the need for innovation to help advance reform efforts. 

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Promoting K-12 Education to Advance Student Achievement

September 27, 2011 • Washington, DC

On September 27, The Hamilton Project at Brookings held a forum to highlight new policy ideas and perspectives on how to improve student performance in K-12 education.  The program concluded with a discussion on the path forward in education reform with Teach for America Founder and CEO Wendy Kopp and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, moderated by David Leonhardt, D.C. bureau chief of the New York Times.

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The Future of American Jobs, Part II

December 3, 2010 • Washington, DC

The Hamilton Project and the Center for American Progress hosted the second of two conferences addressing the long-term challenges of creating quality jobs in the United States and preparing American workers for those jobs of the future. As part of the event, The Hamilton Project and the Center for American Progress released three targeted policy proposals by outside scholars to deal with the long-term challenges associated with the new global economy.

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The Future of American Jobs

April 30, 2010 • Washington, DC

The Hamilton Project partnered with the Center for American Progress to host a forum on the country’s employment situation. The event featured a discussion with New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and NEC director Lawrence H. Summers, moderated by PBS host Charlie Rose.

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Earnings of Those With Lower Levels of Education Have Declined in the Past 25 years

April 20, 2015 • Charts

Over the period 1990 to 2013, the real earnings of individuals with lower levels of education have tended to decline, while they have risen for those with at least a bachelor’s degree. 

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Median Initial Earnings Growth in Early Career, by Major

November 20, 2014 • Charts

Graduates of majors with initially low earnings experience faster earnings growth during the early-career years.

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Opportunities and Challenges in the U.S. Labor Market - Featured Remarks by Jason Furman

July 17, 2014 • Video

On July 17th, the President’s Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) released a new report about the change in labor force participation and how it relates to the underlying demographic, structural and cyclical trends affecting the labor market. CEA Chairman Jason Furman joined The Hamilton Project to discuss the report and the implications these labor force changes have for outstanding challenges like lowering long-term unemployment, raising wages, and expanding the economy's potential. 

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Opportunities and Challenges in the U.S. Labor Market - Roundtable Discussion with Blinder, Furman, and Rubin

July 17, 2014 • Video

On July 17th, The Hamilton Project hosted Jason Furman, Chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers (CEA), to discuss the release of a new CEA report about the change in labor force participation. Following his featured remarks, Furman was joined by Robert E. Rubin, former U.S. Treasury Secretary, and Alan Blinder, Professor of Economics & Public Affairs at Princeton University and a former Federal Reserve Board Vice Chair, for a roundtable discussion. 
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Addressing America’s Poverty Crisis - Day 2, Welcoming Remarks Audio

June 20, 2014 • Audio

On June 20, The Hamilton Project started day two of Addressing America’s Poverty Crisis, and introduced dynamic policy proposals focusing on ways to improve the U.S. safety net and provide support for low-wage workers. Roger Altman, Founder & Executive Chairman of Evercore, opened the forum and introduced the first panel.

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Addressing America’s Poverty Crisis - Day 2, Panel 1 Audio

June 20, 2014 • Audio

Day two of The Hamilton Project’s anti-poverty summit, Addressing America’s Poverty Crisis, focused on policy proposals to improve safety net and work support. The first panel of the day discussed expansions to the Earned Income Tax Credit, reforms to the Child and Dependent  care tax credit, and the potential benefits of predictive analytics and rapid-cycle evaluation to improve social services. The authors, Scott Cody of Mathematica Policy Research, Hilary Hoynes of UC Berkely, and James Ziliak of the University of Kentucky, were joined in the roundtable discussion by Gordon Berlin of MDRC, and Robert Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Director of The Hamilton Project, Melissa Kearney, moderated the discussion.

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Addressing America’s Poverty Crisis - Day 2, Panel 2 Audio

June 20, 2014 • Audio

The second panel for day two of Addressing America’s Poverty Crisis focused on minimum wage policy at the state and local levels, and reducing unemployment through work sharing. Authors Arindrajit Dube of the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Katharine Abraham of the University of Maryland introduced their proposals, and were joined by Jared Bernstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and Gregory Mankiw of Harvard University. Christopher Edley, Jr. of UC Berkely moderated the discussion.

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Addressing America’s Poverty Crisis - Day 2, Welcoming Remarks

June 20, 2014 • Video

On June 20, The Hamilton Project continued day two of Addressing America’s Poverty Crisis, and introduced dynamic policy proposals focusing on ways to improve the U.S. safety net and provide support for low-wage workers. Roger Altman, Founder & Executive Chairman of Evercore, opened the forum and introduced the first panel.

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Addressing America’s Poverty Crisis - Day 2, Panel 1

June 20, 2014 • Video

Day two of The Hamilton Project’s anti-poverty summit, Addressing America’s Poverty Crisis, focused on policy proposals to improve safety net and work support. The first panel of the day discussed expansions to the Earned Income Tax Credit, reforms to the Child and Dependent  care tax credit, and the potential benefits of predictive analytics and rapid-cycle evaluation to improve social services. The authors, Scott Cody of Mathematica Policy Research, Hilary Hoynes of UC Berkely, and James Ziliak of the University of Kentucky, were joined in the roundtable discussion by Gordon Berlin of MDRC, and Robert Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Director of The Hamilton Project, Melissa Kearney, moderated the discussion.

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Addressing America’s Poverty Crisis - Day 2, Panel 2

June 20, 2014 • Video

The second panel for day two of Addressing America’s Poverty Crisis focused on minimum wage policy at the state and local levels, and reducing unemployment through work sharing. Authors Arindrajit Dube of the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Katharine Abraham of the University of Maryland introduced their proposals, and were joined by Jared Bernstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and Gregory Mankiw of Harvard University. Christopher Edley, Jr. of UC Berkely moderated the discussion.

Hamilton Project Updates

A periodic newsletter of events, policy briefs, and working papers from The Hamilton Project.