The Education Trap: Schools and the Remaking of Inequality in Boston

Harvard Univ. Mar. 2021. 384p. ISBN 9780674249110. $35. ED
Many believe that high rates of education reduce the gap between rich and poor, yet although the U.S. has one of the best rates of school enrollment and graduation globally, levels of social mobility are low and levels of economic inequality are high. To explore this paradox, Groeger (history, Lake Forest Coll.) examines educational expansion and economic growth during the Progressive Era in Boston from 1880 to the Great Depression. During this period, the source of employment training moved from the workplace to schools. Institutions offering training for office and sales jobs attracted thousands, including women, second-generation immigrants, and the working class. Undeveloped vocational training institutions relegated recent immigrants and African Americans to manual labor and low-paying jobs. To build her case, Groeger uses data from early U.S. manuscript census schedules, which contain information on demographics, occupation, and education. In addition, qualitative data, like records from academic institutions, trade journals, newspapers, correspondence, personal letters, and personnel files, provide a more complete portrait of occupational trends.
VERDICT This extensive, insightful historical examination reveals how U.S. education has perpetuated social inequality rather than decreasing it.
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