Arnold Kling  

Compulsory Cultural Exchange?

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In this essay, I propose a compulsory cultural exchange to try to improve national cohesiveness.


With a cultural exchange program of this sort, the children of the liberal elites could experience first-hand the urban public schools which their parents believe must be protected from competition at all costs. Children raised by nannies could see how the child-care workers themselves live.

Along the way, I suggest an explanation for the high cost of college.

the mysterious high cost of college education may be the result of a "segregation equilibrium." That is, if wealthy parents want their children to be segregated from middle-class children, then wealthy parents will prefer schools with higher tuition. If professors also prefer to teach children of wealthy parents, then the equilibrium is likely to be one in which costs and tuitions at the top institutions are high.

For Discussion. This hypothesis implies a sort of upward-sloping demand curve in higher education--rich people who want to send their children to schools with other rich people will prefer higher-priced colleges. Is this plausible? Suppose that the same phenomenon were to occur in a fully-privatized voucher system. What might be done about it? Would price controls make sense in a segregation equilibrium?


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TRACKBACKS (3 to date)
TrackBack URL: http://econlog.econlib.org/mt/mt-tb.cgi/81
The author at Chicago Report in a related article titled Voluntary Segregation and Private Education writes:
    A good post at EconLog about the tendency, or risk, that in any education market the rich will attempt to send their children rich schools. Arnold Kling uses this explain inflated university tuition. This phenomenon is one that the left... [Tracked on May 25, 2004 11:34 AM]
COMMENTS (4 to date)
Lawrance George Lux writes:

Arnold,
Your article sounds good, but will have little impact on the quality of education received. A fully-funded voucher system would have to be based on academic excellence.

Proposed Policy:
1) All institutions have mandated standard tuition rates.
2) Every institution must have a Quality Grade like Grades given: A through D.
3) Every School must be mandated to give an F or D to 16% of the Student body. Every Student will be allowed to raise this class award by one Grade, if he transfers to a lower Grade school.

This may seem harsh, but is the only way to improve academic performance. lgl

patrick writes:

"This hypothesis implies a sort of upward-sloping demand curve in higher education--rich people who want to send their children to schools with other rich people will prefer higher-priced colleges. Is this plausible?"

I assume this is a rhetorical question?

"Suppose that the same phenomenon were to occur in a fully-privatized voucher system. What might be done about it?"

As above, I don't think it requires much supposition...it is virtually guaranteed. As for what might be done about it, there are many such solutions already in place in higher ed:

Mandate that each school admit a certain percentage of scholarship students. Make subsidized loans or scholarships available for students. Etc.

"Would price controls make sense in a segregation equilibrium?"

No. Wealthy people who are serious about segregating their children will just forgo the vouchers and send their kids to private schools (as most already do), or find some other way of segregating their children.

But isn't this beside the point? Isn't tring to force society to socially integrate just another form of paternalism? If individuals value social stratification, is it the government's business to correct them?

Xavier writes:

I agree with patrick. Your article does an excellent job of explaining the mechanics of class segregation, but you don't provide any evidence that it's a problem.

Hunter McDaniel writes:

Your "segregation equilibrium" hypothesis doesn't ring true to me, at least not if you're talking about segregation by wealth/income. Segregation by academic performance is another matter - that was very much a factor in college selection for my son. Unfortunately, the economic effect on college tuition is probably the same either way.

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