ERIC Number: ED340633
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1989-Dec
Reference Count: N/A
The Role of Education in the Economic Transformation of Nineteenth Century America.
Vinovskis, Maris A.
This essay examines the relationship between economic and educational developments in the United States in the decades prior to the Civil War. Early industrialization in the United States began during the first half of the 19th century and seems to coincide with common school expansion and reforms. Yet the link between economic and educational development during this period, which has often been pointed to by scholars, has received little close attention. This essay focuses on three aspects of the relationship between educational changes and economic development. First, the connection between early industrialization and the rise of mass public schooling is considered. A number of important scholars have proposed a close, causal relationship between early industrialization and the rise of mass public schooling. This contention greatly oversimplifies educational development during this period. Industrial development was but one among many socioeconomic factors that improved the quality of education. The second aspect examined is 19th century views of the role of education in economic productivity. While most contemporary economists emphasize the importance of education as a form of human-capital investment, very few 19-century thinkers focused on education as a means to economic productivity. Private and public schooling appear to have contributed to the economic well-being of the 19-century United States, but the lack of adequate studies limits what can be said on this issue. Third, and finally, some 19-century concepts about the relationship between social mobility and education are held up to the actual experiences of that era's population. While social mobility was a dominant belief in 19-century United States, education received less emphasis in this regard than the value of good habits and hard work. As to whether or not education was an important factor in social mobility, there is no agreement among researchers. What evidence exists suggests that schooling contributed to occupational advancement in individual cases, but perhaps universal education was less essential in the past than it may be today. (DB)
Publication Type: Historical Materials; Information Analyses
Education Level: N/A
Sponsor: Office of Educational Research and Improvement (ED), Washington, DC.
Authoring Institution: Columbia Univ., New York, NY. Inst. on Education and the Economy.