Former Yale Prof Deresiewicz: Elite Colleges Feed Income Inequality

Wednesday, 27 Aug 2014 06:49 PM

By Dan Weil

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The country's top colleges exacerbate the income inequality problem by establishing an admissions process that favors the well-off, says former Yale English professor William Deresiewicz. The admissions process is "retarding social mobility and perpetuating privilege," he told Yahoo.

Deresiewicz is the author of the new book "Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life."

"It costs lots of money to produce the kind of kid who can get into these schools," he said. "It’s a resumes arms race that's going on in affluent suburbs. Not surprisingly, a vast majority of the kids who go to these schools are from affluent families."

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High-school extracurricular activities, such as sports and music, often are essential for getting into elite colleges, and these activities can be quite expensive for parents, Deresiewicz notes. 

The kind of work that low-income kids might do should be valued more highly in the admissions process, he says. "Working at Denny's teaches a lot of skills," Deresiewicz said. "This type of service work is not valued in the admissions process."

Meanwhile, though the ultra-wealthy are largely culpable for the increase in income inequality, "it is hypocritical for most people wringing their hands to point at the rich as the sole source of wage inequality," financial author Erik Sherman writes in an article for Forbes.com.

"The middle class has a big role in the problem and helps perpetuate it in a number of ways." For example, by purchasing the cheapest goods and services at the lowest prices possible, the middle class helps put a ceiling on wages, Sherman notes.

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