Theories of Educational Inequality

We 1:00PM - 3:40PM / 4318 Wesley W Posvar Hall / CRN 23494

In order to understand educational systems, it is crucial to understand the plurality of forces acting to create (or ameliorate) social stratification. Despite some discussion of the level of educational productivity in the U.S. compared to other nations, the main educational problem in the U.S. is the high level of educational inequality, not average productivity. Educational inequality stems in large part from the stratified nature of our society, and is in turn generative of future inequality in the labor market and other aspects of society. We begin this class with a summary examination of educational inequality, just to get the basic findings on the table and an initial set of resources for recent estimates of educational inequality. We then turn to a brief survey of major theories of social stratification, and major empirical findings on status attainment and inequality at the macro level. Schools do generate inequality, but also opportunity; it is a glass half-full (or empty) situation. We then move to a series of topics at the micro-level, that is, social forces acting on schooling that can be readily measured at the level of individuals and families. Course requirements include a term paper using the social theories from this course to analyze Hollywood narratives of schooling and youth development.

Number of Credits


Sean Kelly

Course Term


Course Category

Category C: Cultural Antagonisms and Cultural Crises

Course Year