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Choosing Our Future: A Story of Opportunity in America

Kirsch, Irwin S.; Braun, Henry I.; Lennon, Mary Louise; Sands, Anita M.
Publication Year:
Report of the ETS Center for Research on Human Capital and Education
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Poverty, Achievement Gap, Skills Gap, Social Capital, Workplace Skills, Opportunity in America, Educationally Disadvantaged


The ETS Opportunity in America initiative defines opportunity specifically as pathways to the development of human and social capital. There is clear evidence that gaps in human and social capital contribute to widening inequality in life outcomes. This inequality, in turn, contributes to disparities in opportunity for the next generation, setting up a cycle of accelerated advantage or disadvantage. If opportunity is to be more widely shared, it is important to understand the forces governing access to opportunity or, using our metaphor, access to the pathways for developing human and social capital. This narrative begins by looking in detail at the dimensions of human and social capital and their relationship to adult outcomes. Economic and social changes have taken us to a point where human and social capital are both more strongly related and increasingly consequential. The rewards to those with greater skills and stronger social capital are growing, while for those on the low end, rewards are declining. Such differential outcomes are critically important not just to the individuals who experience them, but to their children as well.

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