Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Projects

The Equality of Opportunity Project

A defining feature of the “American Dream” is upward income mobility: the ideal that children have a higher standard of living than their parents. 

A defining feature of the “American Dream” is upward income mobility: the ideal that children have a higher standard of living than their parents. Our work shows that children's prospects of earning more than their parents have fallen from 90% to 50% over the past half century. Understanding what has led to this erosion of the American Dream — and how we can revive it for future generations — is the motivation for the Equality of Opportunity Project.

Our mission is to develop scalable policy solutions that will empower families to rise out of poverty and achieve better life outcomes. We aim to achieve this mission by harnessing the power of big data to learn from areas where the American Dream is still thriving.

Over the past 6 years, the Equality of Opportunity Project has published several important papers focusing on the role of education at all levels in providing opportunities to young men and women. In a recent paper, the Equality of Opportunity Project evaluated every college in the United States on their contributions to economic mobility. The published data will both aid colleges in examining their admissions processes and help policymakers to identify areas for improvement in postsecondary institutions, paving the way for improved access to higher education for children from low-income families. Earlier studies provided a novel approach to measuring the impact of a good teacher on student’s future earnings, developing important metrics for policymakers to use in the evaluation of schools and helping young students receive the most impactful education.

The Equality of Opportunity Project continues to develop partnerships with educational institutions and policymakers to understand avenues for improving educational access and quality across the country. We look forward to aiding both public and private institutions in providing maximum opportunity for students to succeed.


Related publications:

Mobility Report Cards: The Role of Colleges in Intergenerational Mobility
NBER Working Paper
http://www.equality-of-opportunity.org/papers/coll_mrc_paper.pdf

Measuring the Impacts of Teachers II: Teacher Value-Added and Student Outcomes in Adulthood
American Economic Review 2014
http://www.equality-of-opportunity.org/assets/documents/teachers2.pdf

Measuring the Impacts of Teachers I: Evaluating Bias in Teacher Value-Added Estimates
American Economic Review 2014
http://www.equality-of-opportunity.org/assets/documents/teachers1.pdf

How Does Your Kindergarten Classroom Affect Your Earnings? Evidence from Project STAR
Quarterly Journal of Economics 2011
http://www.equality-of-opportunity.org/assets/documents/star_paper.pdf