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July 31, 2012 4:22 PM Fair Chance

By Daniel Luzer

Lawrence Summers, the former Harvard president and Treasury secretary and who now teachers at Harvard’s Kennedy school of government, questions the effectiveness of efforts to address income inequality. He says that education is another important factor that might have a greater impact.

According to a piece by Jeremy Hobson at NPR’s Marketpalce, Summers explains the problem:

It’s probably inevitable that there’s going to be substantial inequality. We want people who achieve extraordinary things. But, it’s imperative that we have a system in which everybody has a fair chance to succeed if that system’s going to be legitimate.
There’s no single magic bullet. We’ve got to do much better at educating those from less advantaged backgrounds. We’ve got to make sure that everyone’s got a fair chance at college — that goes to controlling the growth in tuition costs; that goes to the kind of financial aid that we provide; that goes to admissions policies, which too often reward things that only very fortunate parents can provide for their children.

That’s no doubt true, but it’s probably substantial income inequality that allows for the growth in tuition costs and rewarding things that only “very fortunate” can provide.

The richer people are, after all, the more elaborate their plans become to ensure their continuance of their privilege. No would be writing about volunteer work in Africa and their internships at Vogue, after all, if everyone had to work summers waiting tables.

Beyond that, couldn’t we try to fix both income inequality and equality of opportunity? One certainly doesn’t preclude the other.

Here Summers explains his views:

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer