Category Archives: Graduate Coursework

On wealth, income, and savings inequality in the US; Also, the “some college” trap and value of technical colleges

This is a discussion post I wrote on 2018-04-11 for Dr. Judit Szente‘s course, EDF 6855: Equitable Educational Opportunity & Life Chances: A Cross-National Analysis, at University of Central Florida.

On wealth, income, and savings inequality in the US

The United Nations (2017) sustainable development goals seek to promote employment and income equality, particularly among disadvantaged or at-risk groups in developing countries (Goals 8 and 10). Education is important toward employment opportunities, along with the eradication of bad forms of child labor, subsistence or forced labor, and the promotion of economic development at all levels including availability of loans and other financial services to small businesses (Goal 8). Goal 10 focuses on addressing income inequality, including via a powerful antecedent—different levels of opportunity for the wealthy versus the poor. To address this, the UN suggests focusing on increasing incomes for the lower 40% of earners in developing countries, along with policies of social protection, inclusion, and progressive taxation. At the macro level, the UN suggests least developed and developing countries be given preferential treatment in matters of world trade and aid.

When reflecting on these issues, I like to compare and contrast with the situation in Florida and the US as a whole. It may be surprising to some that Florida allows several forms of child labor. Officially, children are permitted to deliver newspapers at Age 10, work on farms at Age 12, and work in many other settings (e.g., grocery stores) at Age 14. Fourteen year olds can work up to 15 hours per week during the school year and up to 40 hours per week during school breaks. I started working for pay at a public library at Age 15, and it was a source of fulfillment and satisfaction for me. However, at the same time it can be distracting from one’s academic work, particularly for children who have familial and financial stress at home. These forms of child labor are much better than young children working in sweatshops or factories full-time for low wages at the expense of their studies and family life, of course.

Income inequality is important, but the U.N. sustainable development goals are unfortunately loath to consider wealth and savings inequality. To aid comparison and contrast to the US, I refer to Saez and Zucman’s (2014) meticulous analysis of U.S. wealth inequality from 1913 to 2012, which refers to accumulated assets rather than inflows (income) for a particular year. What they have found is a U-shaped curve whereby wealth inequality was high in the 1920s, declined in the Great Depression and thereafter, and then has roared back since the 1970s, particularly with the Great Recession that began in 2008. Of particular note is that the top 0.1% almost fully account for this inequality—the 160,000 American families with net worth north of $20 million. In fact, wealth inequality is a problem of much greater magnitude than income inequality. Not only has the income rate of the top 1% been increasing faster than the lower 99%, but their wealth differential and savings rates are much higher, too.

The wealthiest Americans are a triple threat—in recent decades, their increase in earnings rates are higher than the lower 99%, they save more, and their accumulated wealth produces more wealth. Looking at problem of saving, Saez and Zucman (2014) find that Americans in the lower 90% of wealth save an average of 3% of their income, while those in the 91st–99th percentiles save 15% of their income (five times more!), and the top 1% save 20–25% of their income. For the lowest 90% of American wealth holders, savings rates declined steeply beginning in the 1970s, fueled by an explosion of consumer debt particularly in home mortgages—in fact, in 1998—2008, their savings rate was negative, meaning they took on more debt than assets. Further perpetuating their wealth inequality, about half of Americans have no exposure to stocks, which are vital to growing one’s wealth.

Wealth inequality is a big problem in the US, along with income and savings inequality. In developing countries, the consequences are dire. However, even in the US, inequality disenfranchises over half the population. It is quite challenging to personally fight inequality in developing countries without income and assets. The idea I have recently been toying with is a three-pronged approach that focuses on financial education for Americans, laws and regulations that compel employers and financial institutions to conduct business in ways that do not unfairly disadvantage the working class (e.g., comprehension rules; Willis, 2017), and a movement that encourages prosocial behaviors among employers, financial institutions, corporations, and governments that benefit the poor, going beyond what laws and regulations can do. While I will work only on one of three of these prongs (financial education), the others are equally important legs of the stool.

References

Saez, E., & Zucman, G. (2014). Wealth inequality in the United States since 1913: Evidence from capitalized income tax data (Working Paper No. 20625). Washington, DC: National Bureau of Economic Research. Retrieved from http://www.nber.org/papers/w20625

United Nations. (2017). Sustainable Development Goals: 17 goals to transform our world. Retrieved from http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/

Willis, L. E. (2017). The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the quest for consumer comprehension. The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, 3(1), 74–93. https://doi.org/10.7758/rsf.2017.3.1.04


This is a reply to another student’s discussion post I wrote on 2018-04-11 for Dr. Judit Szente‘s course, EDF 6855: Equitable Educational Opportunity & Life Chances: A Cross-National Analysis, at University of Central Florida.

On the “some college” trap and value of technical colleges

The idea that not everyone needs or would want to go to college for a traditional 2- or 4-year degree is an idea whose time has come in the US and elsewhere, in my opinion. Massive numbers of postsecondary students have “some college”—they earned credits but no degree, and yet they have the debt and reduced GPA with none of the benefits. Often, they ended up failing due to competing demands of financial stress, work, and childcare, while being unaware of withdrawal deadlines and future impacts. A student with “some college” and a low GPA, in the US, is in many ways disadvantaged compared to a high school graduate with no college credit, in a similar manner to how those with derogatory marks on their credit reports are disadvantaged compared to those with no information on their credit reports. If they go back to college, they may not be admitted or may not qualify for financial aid due to their pre-existing low GPA, and credits previously earned may become unuseful.

Vocational schools, on the other hand, train individuals more quickly in profitable fields such as welding, dental assisting, or information technology, without onerous general education requirements or multi-year programs of study. In the US, the word “college” has more respect and notoriety than “trade” or “technical” schools. Public vocational schools in Florida have recently taken advantage by rebranding themselves as colleges, such as Orange Technical College. It behooves young Floridians to know about technical colleges, along with the certificate offerings of their friendly neighborhood state colleges.

Thoughts on Education, Inclusivity, School Shootings, Truancy, and Inequitable U.S. and Floridian Welfare Practices

This is a discussion post I wrote on 2018-03-30 for Dr. Judit Szente‘s course, EDF 6855: Equitable Educational Opportunity & Life Chances: A Cross-National Analysis, at University of Central Florida.

This week’s readings are broad and lengthy, making it difficult to write a compact summary or reflection. Particularly when reading Chapter 16 of UNESCO (2016), but throughout this week’s readings, I was disappointed that financial education is not mentioned. The disadvantages that poor families face are discussed at length, along with teacher salaries and job searches, school funding, and financial incentives for school attendance. Similarly, our readings emphasize that effective schooling teaches children about sexuality, sustainable lifestyles, cultural diversity, gender equality, and many other issues, but omit financial education despite the importance of financial knowledge and behaviors toward positive lifelong and inter-generational outcomes. (Although the link between financial education and knowledge/behaviors is tenuous, certain financial education pedagogies have strong support, such as “just-in-time” education. Just-in-time education is relevant to secondary students, particularly in developing countries and in poor families, who may already be working, assisting their parents and siblings financially, and making spending and saving decisions.)

Reflecting on UNESCO (2015), I see parallels between these findings and University of Central Florida’s inclusive approach. While many institutions of higher education emphasize exclusivity, President Hitt has emphasized inclusivity in the belief that expanded opportunity is not necessarily detrimental to educational quality, which parallels findings in Kenyan primary school. In fact, the chapter concludes by saying that simultaneous increase of quality and large enrollment increases are possible even for the majority of resource-constrained countries.

Reflecting on UNESCO (2016), I agree that human rights, equality, sexuality, and particularly sustainability are important curricular components. Much progress has been made in these areas, such as human rights being mentioned in about half of secondary textbooks around the start of the 21st century, as compared with only one in 20 textbooks around the 19th–20th century transition. Sustainability, of course, is a prime topic given humanity’s explosive population growth and industrialization. Education on sexuality and sustainable lifestyles may influence children not to have children in adulthood, helping to curb human population growth. In addition, it can encourage reduced consumption, recycling, et cetera.

While Chapters 3–5 of UNESCO (2017) are too wide-ranging to comment on as a whole, three issues remain that I will include in my reflection. One is also covered in UNESCO (2016): school violence and attacks. Although civil unrest, political instability, and war are often the cause, in the US we have the rather unique problem of mass murders with firearms by individuals not affiliated with a military, nor even necessarily a terrorist group. Although many more children die in automobile accidents, mass murders touch us all. They are cruel, senseless, anxiety provoking, and traumatizing. Their prevalence in the US surely inhibits teaching and learning. As an instructor of preservice teachers at UCF, at least two of my students this semester are Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School graduates, having shared this in an assignment in my course where they are given the option of producing an autobiographical mind map using Inspiration, MindMeister, or another software application.

The second issue from UNESCO (2017) I will comment on is responsibility for school effort. Chapter 5 of UNESCO (2017) shows a graph (Figure 5.1) of the transition of responsibility from parents to students for school attendance, effort, and behavior as students age and move through school. This might be likened to the fading of scaffolding during the learners’ novice–expert transition in instructional pedagogy. But, are teachers, administrators, politicians, and school staff not also responsible? As an instructor, I am always inclined to place a portion of the blame on myself for students who decide to skip class—my teaching fails to captivate their interests or motivate them to attend.

The final issue I will comment on from UNESCO (2017) is truancy and fines, with a segue into anti-productive American social welfare policies. The research cited in UNESCO (2017) shows that punitive action against students and/or parents is ineffective and actually impedes the education of disadvantaged children, as well as unduly burdening their families. The authors cite Los Angeles, CA having previously fined parents of truant children $250, plus court fees of up to $1,000. When we look at fines of any type, typically they are simply not scaled for income and/or wealth. They are regressive, not progressive. To be fair, poorer families should have no fine while families with a mansion and million-dollar yacht might need to pay a $50,000 fine for truancy. Such progressiveness is largely considered antithetical to the U.S. Constitution and culture of individualism, but in part is seen in the IRS tax brackets. Nevertheless, many American social support programs discourage upward mobility, which has inter-generational negative implications for educational attainment and multi-dimensional life outcomes. For example, individuals and families can rely on Medicaid for medical expenses, but only after all their financial assets are exhausted, and continued receipt of benefits is dependent on continued penury. If an adult receives SSI benefits for a disability, which can approach $1,000 per month, these benefits are immediately rescinded if he or she achieves $2,000 in assets (or $3,000 in joint assets if married). These hard cut-offs amount to serfdom. Through complex paperwork, one can sometimes get around them (e.g., a special account that allows an SSI-recipient to save money to purchase an automobile), but these hurdles are actually too high for the individuals and families who need relief the most. Distribution of relief in the US is abysmal, and we are not a developing country. A recent Floridian example followed Hurricane Irma, where the State of Florida distributed food benefits to those who applied. You could only apply at a centralized location per county, on one weekend, and it was not widely advertised. For instance, in Volusia County, migrant workers in Pierson or disadvantaged families in Daytona Beach would have needed to travel to the county fairgrounds in DeLand on a particular weekend, 25 miles away, to apply for benefits. What if they did not have a car, or did not hear about the program? Although the benefits distributed were large—easily $500+ for a small family, those who benefitted were probably those who needed it least, and there was no means-testing verification. Benefits distribution was staggered by county across the state in September–November 2017 with little advertising, in a manner that was most inequitable.

References

UNESCO. (2015). “Chapter 6: Goal 6: Quality of education.” EFA global monitoring report 2015: Education for all 2000–2015: Achievements and challenges. Retrieved from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0023/002322/232205e.pdf

UNESCO. (2016). Global education monitoring report 2016: Education for people and the planet: Creating sustainable futures for all. Retrieved from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0024/002457/245752e.pdf

UNESCO. (2017). Global education monitoring report 2017/8: Accountability in education: Meeting our commitments. Retrieved from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0025/002593/259338e.pdf


My response to another student’s posting:

I found your insights on inner-city teachers and the Boyd, Lankford, Loeb, and Wyckoff (2005) reference interesting! Another great reference for this is Hong’s (2012) article on teacher resilience, which finds that teacher attrition is often caused by emotional burnout in part due to lack of support from school administrators. I have heard anecdotally from teachers at UCF that it is easy, for example, to teach a class that has several children with individual education plans, but difficult or impossible if the majority of the class has special needs. In low-performing schools, the latter may be common, and a class that should probably be taught by 2–3 teachers may just have one teacher (you). Of course, it is also difficult to find a teacher who works fewer than 40 hours per week, so the commuting issue that Boyd et al. (2005) cite is quite important. A commute can easily add 10 hours of unproductive time per week, which compounds the untenability of a job that may be lacking work–life balance even if you could live at the school.

References

Boyd, D., Lankford, H., Loeb, S., & Wyckoff, J. (2005). Explaining the short careers of high-achieving teachers in schools with low-performing students. The American Economic Review, 95, 166–171. https://doi.org/10.1257/000282805774669628

Hong (2012). Why do some beginning teachers leave the school, and others stay? Understanding teacher resilience through psychological lenses. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice18, 417–440. https://doi.org/10.1080/13540602.2012.696044

Women and Children in Bangladesh: The Effects of the Grameen Bank, the World Bank, and the Global Partnership for Education

This is a paper I completed on 2018-03-01 for Dr. Judit Szente‘s course, EDF 6855: Equitable Educational Opportunity & Life Chances: A Cross-National Analysis, at University of Central Florida.

Women and Children in Bangladesh: The Effects of the Grameen Bank, the World Bank, and the Global Partnership for Education
Richard Thripp
University of Central Florida

The purpose of this paper is to investigate the effectiveness of three institutions at improving educational and financial outcomes for women and children in the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, a densely populated South Asian country that borders India. It is a United Nation’s “least developed country,” with many of the 163 million residents living in poverty.

The Grameen Bank

The Grameen Bank was founded by Dr. Muhammad Yunus in the 1970s to provide small loans to poor Bangladeshis living in rural areas. Billed as the “bank for the poor,” in 2006, the bank and its founder won a Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts. In particular, the bank focuses on loans to women so they can start or further their small businesses. Unlike other banks, Grameen lends to the poor without collateral at a lower interest rate (16% per year). A mandatory component is regular meetings with a support group of four other prospective borrowers—the bank builds “collective responsibility” by requiring a pilot test with two of five borrowers from each support group before the other three are allowed to borrow (Grameen Bank, 2018). As of 2006, the bank claims it had loaned a total of $24 billion USD to nine million borrowers.

In 1996, Pitt and Khandker administered questionnaires to loan recipients in Bangladesh, and found that although Grameen loans improved household wealth for both males and females, the loans especially helped girl’s schooling and empowered women to participate in the labor force. The authors looked at micro-loans to men as well, finding that such men were more likely to enroll their children in school and to use contraceptives. The Grameen Bank can be seen as a “three-in-one,” so to speak—an anti-poverty program, a pro-education program, and a women’s empowerment program. However, the authors note that in addition to the micro-loans themselves, the support groups with four other borrowers might contribute to positive outcomes for Grameen loan recipients. Regardless, both components are important parts of the Grameen program, which has shown excellent results in benefitting the poor. At the same time, it has managed to be cash-flow positive while lending to people who are seen as undeserving of credit by traditional banks and lenders.

Kabeer (2001) provides an account that factors in the nuances of a patriarchal culture and gender differences. In particular, even wealthy women may be discouraged from pursuing entrepreneurial efforts due to sexist stigmas in Bangladesh. A prime finding of importance, however, is that women who receive micro-loans are more likely to share it with their family, benefiting their children’s education and their partner, in addition to their business venture. However, men are less likely to share the micro-loan. Therefore, lending to women has the inherent benefit of an increased chance of benefiting the entire household rather than just the husband, father, or man.

A dissenting viewpoint is Karim’s (2008), who blasts the Grameen Bank for its 98% loan recovery rate. Karim argues that the rural poor are being subjugated by Grameen, which is only cemented by their 2006 Nobel prize award—specifically, that “Bangladeshi rural women’s honor and shame are instrumentally appropriated by micro-credit NGOs in the furtherance of their capitalist interests” (p. 5). Nonetheless, Grameen inarguably offers collateral-free loans to those who would not typically qualify, at interest rates that are relatively fair—16% per year. Even a creditworthy borrower in the US might be charged a higher interest rate on a credit card. Like educational stipends which provide direct support for rural girls to go to school (Hahn, Islam, Nuzhat, Smyth, & Yang, 2018), micro-loans can support women’s capital expenditures needed to jump-start a successful business, such as purchasing equipment or inventory.

The World Bank

The World Bank provides loans and grants to poor and developing countries for projects that alleviate poverty and promote economic growth (World Bank, 2018e). It has two main branches: The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), which offers loans with interest to countries able to repay, and the International Development Association (IDA), which, via subsidies and donations from member countries, offers interest-free loans to the poorest countries (World Bank, n.d.). IDA recipients must have growth national income (GNI) of about $1,200 USD per person or less, on average—a threshold Bangladesh is about to cross which will make it an IDA/IBRD “blend” country subject to 2% annual interest on its many existing IDA loans rather than 0.75% as it paid in the 2017 fiscal year and before (Dhaka Tribune, 2017). While $1,200 per person is low compared to the US, it is an important milestone for Bangladesh and other poor-but-developing countries.

Bangladesh receives many IDA loans, including ones that benefit women and children. The IDA committed $510 million in December 2017 toward the Transforming Secondary Education for Results Operation (World Bank, 2018d), dedicated to addressing Bangladesh’s education gap—less than a quarter of its 57 million workers have completed secondary education. The IDA has also specifically benefitted out-of-school children via a $130 million loan in 2013 that helped blanket one-third of the country with 20,400 learning centers in rural and disadvantaged areas, which have enrolled 690,000 students (World Bank, 2017b). While academic publications on the IDA’s recent efforts are scant, it would appear the IDA has made a powerful impact to benefit children and women in Bangladesh. For example, another $500 million IDA loan aims to establish “safety net systems for the poorest” (World Bank, 2018a), and a $29 million loan targets women’s economic empowerment in Bangladesh’s poor northern region (World Bank, 2018b).

Sarker and Salam (2011) performed a gender-based literature review of the impacts of the World Bank and UNESCO toward primary education in Bangladesh. Overall, they speculated that the bank’s efforts toward alleviating poverty had resulted in increased primary school enrollment—76% in 1991 compared to 98% in 2008 (91% net)—because poverty is a prime reason for failure to enroll in school. The authors also commended the World Bank for recommending focusing on girls’ education, and noted that Bangladesh’s culture is a limiting factor because it may discourage girls from going to school. Further academic research is needed to examine the World Bank’s substantial recent efforts toward education, gender equality, and poverty alleviation in Bangladesh.

The Global Partnership for Education

The Global Partnership for Education’s (GPE) efforts in Bangladesh focus on implementing a World Bank IDA-funded project called the Primary Education Development Program III (World Bank, 2018c), a $9.8 billion program to improve primary education equality, quality, and participation. The project is primarily funded by Bangladesh’s government, along with loans from the IDA and other organizations, plus a $100 million grant from the GPE for “implementation of the entire program as budget support” (GPE, 2018b), which Bangladesh began receiving in 2016. Disbursement of the grant is tied to nine key indicators including distribution of textbooks and increasing completion rates of Grade 5 primary exams.

Founded in 2002, the GPE funds education in developing countries around the world, focusing on primary and pre-primary education, girls, out-of-school children, and disadvantaged children in general (GPE, 2018a). Bangladesh was the 60th country to receive funding, and $100 million is the maximum amount a country can receive. Use of the money is wide-ranging within the IDA-funded project, and the GPE’s contribution has aided large progress for children in Bangladesh. Primary enrollment increased from 84.7% in 2010 to 98.0% in 2017, with completion rates increasing from 54.9% to 80.8% in the same timeframe (GPE, 2018b; World Bank, 2017b). Now, 32.8% of schools meet the Primary School Quality Level Indicators as compared to 17% in 2010, which is still low, but much better than before. The vast majority of schools receive their textbooks within the first month of the school year now, and 2,032 teachers have been recruited or trained.

Although the GPE is a small part of educational funding in Bangladesh that began funding the country only two years ago, its focus on rigor and standards and its experience working in other developing countries has likely contributed greatly to the wellbeing of women and children in Bangladesh, by improving educational access and quality. If they continue to be sustained, these efforts will have a positive impact for many decades to come.

Summary

The efforts of the Grameen Bank, World Bank, and Global Partnership for Education synergize. Grameen focuses on micro-loans to poor people in rural areas to start or further their business ventures. Although these people are often uneducated and do not gain education directly from the micro-loans, their financial standing tends to improve, which can allow them to provide better nutritional and educational opportunities to their children. The World Bank’s focus is broad and wide-ranging, including infrastructure and electrification projects not relevant here, but also many educational and poverty-mitigating initiatives, such as constructing a social safety net. These projects are quite important toward equity of chances and outcomes for poor women and children. The GPE, through both its organizational capital and direct financial support administered by the World Bank, improves the scope and quality of primary education in Bangladesh which further enables upward economic mobility for the poor. Overall, the efforts of these three organizations, along with many other stakeholders including a substantial commitment from the Bangladesh government, are helping to move Bangladesh from the list of least-developed countries toward the list of middle-income countries.

References

Dhaka Tribune (2017, October 13). World Bank loan to be costlier for Bangladesh from next FY. Retrieved from http://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/2017/10/13/world-bank-loan-costlier-bangladesh-next-fy/

Global Partnership for Education (2018a). About us. Retrieved from https://www.globalpartnership.org/about-us

Global Partnership for Education (2018b). Education in Bangladesh. Retrieved from https://www.globalpartnership.org/country/bangladesh

Grameen Bank (2018). Credit delivery system. Retrieved from http://www.grameen.com/credit-delivery-system/

Kabeer, N. (2001). Conflicts over credit: Re-evaluating the empowerment potential of loans to women in rural Bangladesh. World Development29, 63–84. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0305-750X(00)00081-4

Karim, L. (2008). Demystifying micro-credit. Cultural Dynamics, 20, 5–29. https://doi.org/10.1177/0921374007088053

Pitt, M. M., & Khandker, S. R. (1996). Household and intrahousehold impact of the Grameen Bank and similar targeted credit programs in Bangladesh. Washington, DC: World Bank Publications.

Sarker, M. F. H., & Salam, M. A. (2011). The roles of the World Bank and UNESCO in primary education in Bangladesh: A gender based analysis. Society & Change, 5(4), 7–20.

World Bank (n.d.). Where does the World Bank get its money? Retrieved from http://siteresources.worldbank.org/ESSDNETWORK/Resources/481106-1129303936381/1777397-1129303967165/1777403-1129304010757/where_does.html

World Bank (2017a, June 22). Bangladesh: Primary education development program III: Implementation status & results report. Retrieved from http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/222361498133400029/pdf/ISR-Disclosable-P113435-06-22-2017-1498133389760.pdf

World Bank (2017b, October 15). Bangladesh: Reaching out of school children II: Implementation status & results report. Retrieved from http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/907101508067358869/pdf/Disclosable-Version-of-the-ISR-BD-Reaching-Out-of-School-Children-II-P131394-Sequence-No-09.pdf

World Bank (2018a). Bangladesh safety net systems for the poorest project. Retrieved from http://projects.worldbank.org/P132634/bangladesh-safety-net-systems-poorest-project?lang=en&tab=overview

World Bank (2018b). Northern areas reduction-of-poverty initiative project: Women’s economic empowerment project. Retrieved from http://projects.worldbank.org/P113435/primary-education-development-program-iii?lang=en&tab=overview

World Bank (2018c). Primary education development program III. Retrieved from http://projects.worldbank.org/P114841/northern-areas-reduction-of-poverty-initiative-project-womens-economic-empowerment-project?lang=en

World Bank (2018d). Transforming secondary education for results operation. Retrieved from http://projects.worldbank.org/P160943/?lang=en&tab=overview

World Bank (2018e). What we do. Retrieved from http://www.worldbank.org/en/what-we-do

Youjin, H., Islam, A., Nuzhat, K., Smyth, R., & Yang, H.-S. (2018). Education, marriage, and fertility: Long-term evidence from a female stipend program in Bangladesh. Economic Development & Cultural Change, 66, 383–415. https://doi.org/10.1086/694930

On gender parity, equality, and equity; the UNESCO Education for All initiative; and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #5

This is a discussion post I wrote on 2018-02-23 for Dr. Judit Szente‘s course, EDF 6855: Equitable Educational Opportunity & Life Chances: A Cross-National Analysis, at University of Central Florida.

The fifth Education for All (EFA) goal seeks gender parity and equality in both primary and secondary school (UNESCO, 2015). Although this was originally targeted for 2015, less than half of countries reached gender parity by this time. Nonetheless, progress toward parity and equality is accelerating.

Before proceeding, I think it is important to understand differences between parity, equality, and equity. Parity merely focuses on equal enrollment and completion rates—in this case, between males and females. If a country had 10% of males and 10% of females enrolled in school, it would have achieved gender parity even though 80% of children are not going to school (a horrible outcome!). Equality means treating everyone the same. Equity means giving everyone equal opportunities by catering to their needs (see Sun, 2014 for a more thorough explanation including a cartoon!). In part, this is likely why UNESCO (2016) focuses on equity, which is more holistic. On the other hand, the United Nations (2017) goal for gender equality promotes equality via equal access, which is less useful due to its limited scope.

Counter-intuitively, equity is achieved through inequality, but in a manner opposite to the inequality we typically see. Countries that allow the poorest families equal access to schools without fees or onerous paperwork requirements (e.g., producing a birth certificate) may have achieved equality, but to achieve equity you have to give extra support to the poorest families, particularly if they have girls. This might involve offering transportation, text messages or home visits to address their needs and encourage them to go to school, providing sanitation and hygiene products, and even in-home teaching. The goal is not equality, but to “level the playing field,” so to speak, via equitable practices. In golf, giving a less-skilled player a “handicap” (i.e., extra points) makes the game equitable by counter-acting the players’ underlying inequalities of skill by introducing countervailing inequality. The poorest families, and particularly the poorest girls, need disproportionately high levels of funding and support to countervail the advantages that boys and wealthier families receive. Thus, paradoxically, equity is achieved through inequality.

UNESCO (2016) recognizes this paradox by focusing on equity for those with disabilities, language barriers, and victims of “forced displacement” (p. 271; e.g., refugees and those who have moved due to natural disasters, unfavorable political or economic climate, etc.). Someone with a language barrier, for instance, might require an interpreter to achieve equity with other students, even though this means the student receives an unequally high amount of school resources. In principle, this reminds me of the phrase popularized by Karl Marx: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” Those with more abilities produce more and should provide more for others, while those who need more due to disadvantages (e.g., poverty, disability, etc.) should receive what they need to succeed. Of course, this ideal has never been realized for humans at a wide scale, but it does summarize what equity would look like. At the same time, equity is undesirable if it results in everyone being poor or disadvantaged.

Overall, potent criticisms of the sustainable development goals are their focus on economic growth, lack of ambition and cohesiveness, and lack of sustainability with respect to earth’s resources and climate change (Koehler, 2016). One example Koehler gives of a lack of ambition in the preceding Millennium Development Goals is to reduce “at least by half, the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimension”—even when a proportional reduction would preserve the underlying unequal proportions (i.e., more women than men in poverty). Moreover, not prioritizing planetary sustainability and climate change unfairly impacts women, in part because they are more likely to work the rural farmland and fisheries that will be decimated by climate change, and also because they are more impacted by natural disasters and other ecological damage that anthropogenic climate change produces.

References

Koehler, G. (2016). Tapping the Sustainable Development Goals for progressive gender equity and equality policy? Gender & Development, 24, 53–68. https://doi.org/10.1080/13552074.2016.1142217

Sun, A. (2014, September 16). Equality is not enough: What the classroom has taught me about justice [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://everydayfeminism.com/2014/09/equality-is-not-enough/

UNESCO. (2015). “Chapter 5: Goal 5: Gender parity and equality.” EFA global monitoring report 2015: Education for all 2000–2015: Achievements and challenges. Retrieved from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0023/002322/232205e.pdf

UNESCO. (2016). “Chapter 14: Target 4.5: Equity.” Global education monitoring report 2016: Education for people and the planet: Creating sustainable futures for all. Retrieved from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0024/002457/245752e.pdf

United Nations. (2017). Sustainable Development Goals: 17 goals to transform our world. Retrieved from http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/

Why Apple should fight childhood hunger and poverty

This is a discussion post that I completed on 2018-01-11 for the class, EDF 6855: Factors Affecting Equitable Educational Opportunity and Life Chances: A Cross-National Analysis, taught by Judit Szente, Ph.D. at University of Central Florida.

Please reflect on the possible cause and effect of a specific issue and how it affects children’s life chances (e.g., reasons of poverty and hunger, effects of poverty and hunger, how poverty and/or hunger may affect children’s life chances).

The UNICEF (2016) chapter on children and poverty repeated emphasizes the need for multidimensional measurement of child poverty. In Sub-Saharan Africa or South Asia, even a household making more than 5.00 USD per day may still be poor in terms of their access to education, sanitation, electricity, et cetera. Infrastructure and access is critical to combating child hunger and poverty. For instance, many Chinese rural–urban migrants are denied access to education and other services in their new cities of residence (UNICEF, 2016), meaning their children are still experiencing poverty on many critical dimensions.

Last month (December 2017), I visited family in Shenyang, Liaoning, China for three weeks, which included a 10-day road trip visiting many tourist sites such as the Great Wall, Beijing Palace Museum, Yellow River, Longmen Grottoes, and Terracotta Army. Although the opportunity to visit such tourist sites is restricted to the relatively wealthy, with admission fees ranging from 50–150 RMB (7.50–22.50 USD) plus costs of travel, around such sites it was clear that many sellers of fruit, trinkets, and “tour guide” services are poor or at least struggling. At the Yellow River (Hukou Falls), a woman trying to sell a bag of a dozen apples for 10 RMB (1.5 USD) followed us. Although my family protested, I tried giving her one USD as a gift, but due to the language barrier, she placed the apples in the trunk of our car and accepted the dollar bill as payment. I felt bad, but my family assured me that at 10 RMB she was over-charging compared to other apple sellers and that one USD (6.5 RMB) was sufficient. Regardless, it is clear that many of these sellers are part of the “informal” economy (UNICEF, 2016), along with the associated disadvantages. Occasionally, I would even see children working with their parents to sell fruit or package incense sticks—time the children could be using to complete homework or play with friends. Although children may enjoy selling items, for poor families, child labor often becomes a necessity that inhibits educational progress and subsequent life chances. In fact, a recent longitudinal study of poor U.S. children showed a lack of brain and cognitive development stemming from poor nutrition and lack of cognitive stimulation (Hair, Hanson, Wolfe, & Pollak, 2015). Poverty is more likely to persist across generations when from an early age, poor children are malnourished and suffer wasting, stunting, rickets, and other maladies and disadvantages.

The United Nations (2017) first two Sustainable Development Goals focus on ending extreme poverty and malnutrition by 2030. These ambitious targets are unlikely, yet their promulgation stimulates public interest and support. However, they are simultaneously quite restrained. Individuals making more than 1.25 USD per day are not considered “extremely” poor, yet over a billion of them are actually still quite poor (UNICEF, 2006). While we often look to governments and NGOs to fight childhood hunger and poverty, it can easily be argued that corporate citizens should also play their part. Yesterday (January 17, 2018), Apple Inc. announced it will be repatriating its vast overseas cash hoard under the newly reduced U.S. tax rates. Their press release says they will pay $38 billion in tax, which means at the new 15.5% rate they will bring $250 billion home—a massive, almost incomprehensible sum. Sadly, in their press release, there is no mention of hunger or poverty. The only mention of education is computer programming (“coding”) and science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) in the US. While many excuse public corporations from charitable responsibilities due to the supposedly preeminent responsibility to provide maximum profits to their shareholders, this may be misguided or even ridiculous. In China, iPhones have a following despite being more expensive than in the US when considering exchange rates—and several times more pricey when considering relative wages. Arguably, Apple should be investing heavily in Sub-Saharan Africa for future profitability via sales there. However, chasing inflated quarterly earnings and higher stock valuations in the short-term often inhibits corporations from long-range planning—such as developing the South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa markets by confronting childhood hunger and poverty head-on.

References

Apple Inc. (2018, January 17). Apple accelerates US investment and job creation [Press release]. Retrieved from https://www.apple.com/newsroom/2018/01/apple-accelerates-us-investment-and-job-creation/

Hair, N. L., Hanson, J. L., Wolfe, B. L., & Pollak, S. D. (2015). Association of child poverty, brain development, and academic achievement. JAMA Pediatrics, 169, 822–829. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.1475

UNICEF. (2016). The state of the world’s children 2016: A fair chance for every child. New York, NY: UNICEF. Retrieved from https://www.unicef.org/publications/index_91711.html

United Nations. (2017). Sustainable Development Goals: 17 goals to transform our world. Retrieved from http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/