Commentary

The vast riches of schools like Stanford and Harvard have created dilemmas about how their endowments should be directed. One slate of candidates for Harvard's board of overseers is calling for the school to spend some of its $37.6 billion endowment to cover tuition for all students. Lawmakers have also mulled requiring colleges with at least $1 billion in their endowments to spend at least one-quarter of the endowment's income on financial aid.

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America’s growing inequality is well-documented. Less discussed is its intersection with another of the country’s defining trends, growing diversity.

Racial disparities in wealth are vast. And addressing inequality now and in the years ahead, means thinking seriously about the racial wealth gap and the steps we can take to ameliorate it.

The idea of a property-owning democracy has long roots in American political thought. In their book, The Citizen's Share, Joseph R. Blasi, Richard B. Freeman and Douglas Kruse argue that the Founding Fathers wanted everyone (well, everyone who was white and male) to own a small slice of property. Both Madison and Washington praised the relatively equal distribution of property in the United States (compared with Europe). Thomas Jefferson wrote, "It is not too soon to provide by every possible means that as few as possible be without a little portion of land.

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The idea of a property-owning democracy is no longer the reality in the United States. Edward Wolff finds that the wealthiest 10 percent own 90.9 percent of all stocks and mutual funds, 94.3 percent of financial securities but only 26.5 percent of the debt. For the middle class, their home makes up 62.5 percent of their limited wealth.

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When Bartels compared the policy preferences of the rich and poor to actual policy results (with controls) his results were disturbing. He finds that low-income preferences had virtually no effect on policy outcomes.

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The 2016 presidential election will be the second since the court's disastrous Citizens United decision and the first without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act in place. That means big donors will have more sway over elected officials to dictate the agenda.

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Nationwide, the total impact of these cutbacks is breathtaking. Between 2008 and 2013, states cut a total of $16 billion, adjusted for inflation, from their higher education budgets, even as enrollments rose more than 11 percent.

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Wage insurance like this is actually just one of a range of policies that could all be fairly described by the phrase “wage insurance”—efforts to protect families from shocks to their income, or from barebones wages more generally. Americans already benefit from some of these policies—they aren’t something that only exist among the usual suspects, Scandinavia or Canada.

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The fourth quarter of the Obama presidency has been relatively active when it comes to higher education. Last year alone, the Administration announced a proposal to make two years of community college tuition-free, finalized and released a treasure trove of data on earnings and loan repayment data by college as a substitute for its once-vaunted plans for a College Ratings system, came out with a Student Aid Bill of Rights, and issued regulations intended to streamline the confusing set of student loan repayment options.

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When diversity activists began campaigning a few years ago for tech companies to disclose their employee demographics, the truth was revealed. What resulted was a lot of handwringing over the state of diversity in tech and some commitment from companies, including Twitter to do better. Sadly, few companies have moved the needle. But for Twitter, that failure could be its undoing. Worse, for would-be tech workers, if a company with Twitter’s user profile can’t get diversity right, there’s little hope for the sector overall.

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