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American Schooling and Educational Inequality: A Forecast for the 21st Century

Adam Gamoran
Sociology of Education
Vol. 74, Extra Issue: Current of Thought: Sociology of Education at the Dawn of the 21st Century (2001), pp. 135-153
DOI: 10.2307/2673258
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2673258
Page Count: 19
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American Schooling and Educational Inequality: A Forecast for the 21st Century
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Abstract

Inequality among different socioeconomic and racial groups was a salient subject for sociology of education in the 20th century. What will happen to educational inequality in the 21st century? On the basis of past trends and the assumption that the American educational system will remain largely stable, this article offers predictions about educational inequality over the next hundred years. First, it foresees a decline in black-white racial inequality. This prediction would continue a trend that occurred during the past hundred years and is consistent with current knowledge about the sources of racial inequality in educational outcomes. Although racial inequality in education is expected to decline, corresponding changes in labor market inequality may be much weaker. Second, educational inequality by socioeconomic background is expected to persist at current levels throughout the next century. This prediction is also based on past trends, which indicate that socioeconomic inequality is "maximally maintained": Privileged groups protect their advantages until virtually all members reach a given status, at which point the axis of inequality shifts upward to another level of educational outcome. Relaxing the overall assumption of stability raises questions about the predictions.

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