Education is a fundamental basis of productivity growth. Educated workers are more productive, and the technological change that generates productivity is dependent on the availability of an educated workforce, both for the scientists and the engineers who directly generate those innovations and for the many related occupations that support innovative work and that create the economic and technical infrastructure on which innovation is based.
In the past, the U.S. education system has produced an educated workforce adequate to maintain a relatively high level of productivity growth, and at least the higher education system was considered the best in the world. Certainly the education system has always been highly inequitable in the sense that educational achievement was closely related to race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.
The author argues in this paper that economic, political, social, and demographic factors are changing in such a way that in the future, the traditional educational inequality in the United States is going to increasingly stand in the way of the ability to sustain productivity growth and to compete successfully in international markets.
In the past, educational inequality was a problem primarily for those individuals who ended up with low levels of education; increasingly it will be a problem for everyone.