My brief post about the fallacy of composition provoked a flurry of comments, all of which were interesting, but none of which focused on the substance of the post. My full argument is a tad more complicated than I let on. Let me explain.
At any given time, the totality of the jobs in the American economy can be thought of, for analytical purposes, as positions in one huge hyper-firm with well over a hundred million employees. The directors of the firm define job categories according to the needs of the productive activities they direct -- so many cleaning personnel, so many truck drivers, so many registered nurses, so many machine operatives, so many middle managers, and so forth. Many of these positions have educational credentials associated with them as prerequisites for employment. Obviously, any individual can make him or herself more eligible for the higher paying positions [which are pretty well correlated with the level of credential required] by acquiring additional credentials [I leave entirely to one side whether the credentials are actually associated with different levels of functional skill, or indeed whether it makes any sense operationally to require the credentials for the job -- those are other discussions.] Equally obviously, a significant upgrading of the educational credentials of a large segment of the workforce will not result in a shift in the distribution of available jobs associated with those levels of credentialing
there are alternative production techniques promising higher rates of profit that the firm's directors are unable to adopt, much as they would like to, because of a shortage of job-seekers with the required educational credentials [or skills]. In this case, a larger supply of better credentialed job seekers will enable the firm's directors to shift to the more profitable techniques of production, and as a result the degree of inequality in the wage levels of the firm's employees will diminish [because the job seekers will only acquire the additional credentials if they have a reasonable expectation that doing so will raise they wages.]
The following two facts are significant: First, the level of educational credentials in the American workforce has been rising steadily for at least a century; and Second, the degree of inequality in the distribution of income over that time has increased, not decreased.
I think we can safely conclude that MORE EDUCATION is not the solution to income inequality.
If not improved educational credentialing, then what will in fact diminish the degree of income inequality?
The answers are obvious, but for some reason are impenetrable to those who profess to speak with knowledge and insight about the American economy. The answers are: Redistributive taxation, much higher minimum wages, and unionization of the labor force, resulting in lower rates of profit for the owners of capital.
Now, that wasn't so hard, was it?
I leave it to my faithful readers to formalize all of that appropriately.