Can education get rid of poverty or education cause poverty?

Dec. 13,2018
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Investment in human capital, especially the development of education, has become the main action plan and the policy focus of anti-poverty for the world. However, “education-caused poverty,” a hot topic in recent years, has aroused concerns from all sectors of society. Poor families want to get rid of poverty through children’s education, but the high cost of education may put them in a poorer state. Is that a paradox? If so, how to get rid of this paradox? If not, how to explain the general public concern?

Education is supposed to be the main way to break class solidification and realize the free flow of talents in all sectors of society. As the problem of “education-caused poverty” arose, scholars tried to explain it in different ways. From the perspective of education process, some research held that the spillover effect of education would inhibit the government incentive for vulnerable families and regions to invest in education, and further aggravate the imbalance of education investment. Higher level of education also puts a great burden on low-income families in rural areas, reducing their chances to receive education. Poverty affects decisions on education investment, leading to persistent poverty among low-income families. From the perspective of education results, with the demographic transition, the transformation of socioeconomic structure and the system transition, China’s socioeconomic structural contradictions intensifies. And it put graduates from poor families at a disadvantage in the urban labor market, thus influencing poor families’ relative gains from education. In addition, according to some research, free elementary education provided in poor areas is generally in low quality, which may easily cause the rural students dropping out of school, resulting in the failure of education investment and the problem of “education-caused poverty.”

An analysis of the paradox of “education-caused poverty” and the study on related targeted poverty alleviation strategies: a case study of 14 poverty-stricken villages in Gansu Province published on Economic Geography by ZHANG Yongli et al., has responded and analyzed the objective existence of “education-caused poverty.

The results reveal that, from the effect of the income of labor force with different educational levels to the effect of education on poverty, it can be concluded that education makes great contribution on poverty alleviation. Especially for people living in harsh rural areas where lack basic conditions to alleviate poverty through economic development, good schooling is the main solution for them to get rid of the constraints of natural conditions, improve the income of individuals and families, and ultimately get out of poverty. Meanwhile, it is the most efficient way to prevent the intergenerational transmission of poverty. Therefore, in the long run, the paradox of “education-caused poverty,” especially for the development of people and families in rural areas, does not exist.

In order to promote targeted poverty alleviation in rural areas and radically eliminate the problem of “education-caused poverty,” the author gives five Suggestions, firstly, strengthening the construction of teaching staff, and scientifically developing pre-school education in rural areas; secondly, optimizing the allocation of education resources in rural areas, and improving balanced development of compulsory education in urban and rural areas; thirdly, reasonably developing senior high school and higher vocational education, and providing more choices for students. fourthly, improving funding policy for poor students, and alleviating educational burden for poor families; fifth, constructing the integrated urban-rural employment market and improving the employment level of children in rural areas.

Corresponding Author: ZHANG Yongli
CNKI Press Officer: ZHONG Ming

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