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Education, Labour Markets and Low-Skilled Workers

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A Teaching Topic in Socioeconomic and Political Context

Education, Labour Markets and Low-Skilled Workers

This topic explores how inequality generates barriers to education and consequently job prospects. It studies 'equality of opportunity' as a policy goal and concept. It examines how globalization is influencing the opportunities for low-skilled workers to develop their human capital in both developing and advanced economies.

Topic Learning Outcome: Students will be able to analyze, interpret and evaluate policy choices designed to promote equality of opportunity, improve the performance of labour markets and improve the economic outcomes of less-skilled workers.

Core Concepts associated with this Topic: Employment Insurance (EI); Illiteracy; Discouraged Searchers; Employment Rate; Frictional Unemployment; Wage Subsidy.

Recommended Readings

Toronto PPG1005H The Social Context of Policy-Making

Corak, Miles. (2009) “Chasing the Same Dream, Climbing Different Ladders: Economic Mobility in Canada and the United States.” Washington, DC: Pew Charitable Trusts

Kozol, Jonathan. (2005) Chapter 7: Excluding Beauty The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America. New York: Crown Publications. pp. 161-186.

Zuberi, Dan. (2006) Chapter 7 “Public Investment and City-Level Differences” in Differences That Matter: Social Policy and the Working Poor in the United States and Canada. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press. pp. 113-137

Goffman, Alice. (2009) “On the Run: Wanted Men in a Philadelphia Ghetto.” American Sociological Review 74(3): 339-357.

Frenette, Marc. (2007) “Why are youth from lower-income families less likely to attend university? Evidence from academic abilities, parental influences, and financial constraints.” Analytical Studies Branch Research Paper Series, Statistics Canada, Ottawa.

Frenette, Marc. (2005) “Is post-secondary access more equitable in Canada or the United States?” Analytical Studies Branch Research Paper Series, Statistics Canada, Ottawa.

Finnie, Ross, Richard Mueller, Arthur Sweetman, And Alex Usher, eds. (2008) Who Goes? Who Stays? What Matters? Accessing and Persisting in Post-Secondary Education in Canada Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, Queen’s Policy Studies Series

Boudarbat, Brahim & Lemieux, Thomas & Riddell, W. Craig (2010) “The Evolution of the Returns to Human Capital in Canada, 1980-2005,” CLSRN Working Papers, UBC Department of Economics, revised 30 Jan.

McKinsey Global Institute (2012) An economy that works: Job creation and America’s future Executive summary and Chapter 4.

Blank, Rebecca. (2009) “Economic Change and the Structure of Opportunity for Less Skilled Workers.” Focus 26(2).

MacLeod, Jay. (2009) Ain’t No Makin’ It: Aspirations and Attainment in a Low-Income Neighborhood. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

McLaran, Peter. (1980) “Chapter 1 The Frontiers of Despair” in Cries from the Corridor: The New Suburban Ghettos Toronto: Methuen Press pp. 2-64.

 Sample Assessment Questions:

1.) For any Canadian province, describe that province's strategy to promoting accessibility to higher education for youth from lower-income families. In a 2-3 page paper, discuss the different policy tools the government is using to promote accessibility and use evidence to evaluate the success of the policy bundle taken as a whole.

2.) The Working Income Tax Benefit (WITB) is to some extent modeled on the American Earned Income Tax Credit. What is the WITB, and what are some of the potential advantages and disadvantages of relying on this type of policy to reduce poverty instead of higher minimum wages? You may in your discussion include an analysis of the interaction between earned income tax credits and minimum wages.

3.) What do we mean when we discuss "equality of opportunity?" What are some government policies that exist in Canada that are explicitly designed to promote "equality of opportunity."

Page created by Ben Eisen and Sean Goertzen on 4 April 2015.


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School of Public Policy and Governance