Event 2203 SS&H, Andrews Conference Room

Children of the Dream: Why School Integration Works
Rucker Johnson, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy, UC Berkeley

Inequality in schools leads to many of our most intractable social ills: the mass incarceration of young men of color, disparities in income, life expectancy and related public health metrics.

Children of the Dream argues for public education as the primary engine of upward mobility. Specifically, I examine the success of our three most significant equal-opportunity initiatives: 1) court-mandated integration efforts; 2) school finance reform; and 3) expansions of public pre-K investments. Using nationally-representative data sets of children followed from birth to adulthood across multiple generations, matched with their access to quality schools, we show how these three policies had lasting benefits.

The above policies have never been tried in concert for extended periods of time. Extant efforts at solving our educational woes detach health from education and early education from K-12 schooling. Current policy designs are as divided as our segregated classrooms — and must be combatted just as vigorously. We must shift the paradigm from a singular approach chasing after illusory silver bullets to an integrated solution.

Rucker C. Johnson is the Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy in the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and faculty research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research.  As a labor economist who specializes in the economics of education, Johnson’s work considers the role of poverty and inequality in affecting life chances.

Johnson was one of 35 scholars to receive the prestigious 2017 Andrew Carnegie Fellowship. His research has appeared in leading academic journals, featured in mainstream media outlets, and he has been invited to give policy briefings at the White House and on Capitol Hill. He is the author of the book Children of the Dream: Why School Integration Works.