Greg Duncan and Richard Murnane - Talk on their recent book Restoring Opportunity: The Crisis of Inequality and the Challenge for American Education

Wednesday, April 9, 2014 - 5:00pm to 7:00pm
5pm talk, 6:30pm book signing and reception

CERAS Learning Hall

Greg Duncan and Richard Murnane will be speaking on their new book Restoring Opportunity: The Crisis of Inequality and the Challenge for American Education. Greg Duncan is Professor of Education at the University of California at Irvine, and Richard Murnane is Professor of Education and Society at Harvard University.

Richard Murnane, an economist, is the Thompson Professor of Education and Society at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research.

In recent years he has pursued three lines of research. With MIT professors Frank Levy and David Autor, he has examined how computer-based technological change has affected skill demands in the United States' economy, and the effectiveness of educational policies in responding to changing skill demands. Murnane and Levy have written two books on this topic.

The second line of research examines trends and patterns in U.S. high school graduation rates and their explanations.  In June 2013, the Journal of Economic Literature published Murnane’s interpretive review of the evidence on this topic. 

The third line of research examines the respects in which the growth in family income inequality in the U.S. has affected educational opportunities for children from low-income families and the effectiveness of alternative strategies for improving life chances for these children. Murnane co-edited (with Greg Duncan) the 2011 volume, Whither Opportunity: Rising Inequality, Schools, and Children's Life Chances (Russell Sage). In January 2014, Harvard Education Press and Russell Sage) published Duncan and Murnane’s book, Restoring Opportunity: The Crisis of Inequality and the Challenge for American Education.

Early in his career, Murnane taught high school mathematics. In 2001-02, he served as Special Senior Assistant to the Superintendent of the Boston Public Schools.  In 2011, he and John
Willett published the book, Methods Matter: Improving Causal Inference in Educational and Social Science Research (Oxford Univ. Press).

Greg Duncan is Distinguished Professor in the Department of Education at the University of California, Irvine. With a 1974 Ph.D. in Economics, Duncan spent the first two decades of his career at the University of Michigan working on, and ultimately directing, the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) data collection project, which, in 2001, was named by the National Science Foundation to be one of the 50 most significant NSF-funded projects in the organization’s history. Beginning in the late 1980s, Duncan engaged in a number of interdisciplinary research networks and began to focus on the impacts of family and neighborhood conditions on children’s cognitive and behavioral development.  During his 1995-2008 tenure at Northwestern University, he was the Edwina S. Tarry Professor in the School of Education and Social Policy. He coauthored Higher Ground: New Hope for the Working Poor and Their Children (2007) and co-edited Neighborhood Poverty (1997), Consequences of Growing Up Poor (1997) and, most recently, Whither Opportunity: Rising Inequality, Schools, and Children's Life Chances (2011).  He was President of the Population Association of America in 2008 and the Society for Research in Child Development (2009-11). Duncan was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2010.


Growing income inequality threatens American education

Greg J. Duncan, and Richard J. Murnane, Phi Delta Kappan March 2014 vol. 95 no. 6 8-14

The first of two articles in consecutive months describes the origins and nature of growing income inequality, and some of its consequences for American children. It documents the increased family income inequality that’s occurred over the past 40 years and shows that the increased income disparity has been more than matched by an expanding gap between the amounts of money that low- and high-income parents spend on enrichment activities for their children. It also shows that the growth in income inequality has been accompanied by increasing gaps in academic achievement. The article draws from the first part of the author’s recent book, Restoring Opportunity: The Crisis of Inequality and the Challenge for American Education (Harvard Education Press and the Russell Sage Foundation, 2014).

The second part to the series, also drawn from Restoring Opportunity, describes ideas based on proven policy approaches that will enable the country to make progress on the enormous task of restoring the educational opportunities that children from low-income families need if they are to lead productive and fulfilling lives.

How Public Schools Can Fight Back Against Inequality

Greg Duncan and Richard Murnane, The Atlantic, February 2014

Rising income inequality over the past 40 years has imposed a double burden on schools serving low-income children. First, the technological changes and globalization that have fueled inequality have also increased the skills required for good jobs—which means that schools need to teach higher-level skills if their graduates are to secure jobs that pay middle-class wages. And second, increasing income inequality has led to residential changes that have concentrated poor children in one set of schools and higher-income children in another. But these programs are doing a good job of educating low-income students...