Restoring Opportunity

Restoring Opportunity The Crisis of Inequality and the Challenge for American Education

Greg J. Duncan and Richard J. Murnane
Pub. Date: January 2014
ISBN-13: 978-1-61250-636-4
paper, 200 Pages
Pub. Date: January 2014
ISBN-13: 978-1-61250-634-0
Price: $31.00

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Co-published with the Russell Sage Foundation

2014 Outstanding Academic Title, Choice

In this landmark volume, Greg J. Duncan and Richard J. Murnane lay out a meticulously researched case showing how—in a time of spiraling inequality—strategically targeted interventions and supports can help schools significantly improve the life chances of low-income children.


Duncan and Murnane provide a no-nonsense view of the growing educational gap between the haves and the have-nots in America. They also scour the landscape to find promising solutions that provide hope for better outcomes in the future. This is a thoughtful book that should be read with the care it merits. — Joel Klein, CEO of Amplify, and former chancellor, New York City Department of Education

This thorough examination of our public school system provides a clear picture of some of the toughest challenges—particularly those facing low-income students—and the directions in which we need to go to fix them. This book should be on the desk of every educator and policy maker in America so we can begin to change the odds for all of America’s children. — Geoffrey Canada, president and CEO, Harlem Children’s Zone

Anyone who cares about improving schools should read this book. Duncan and Murnane offer detailed case studies of effective programs to improve schools that can boost the life chances of disadvantaged children. The authors present a careful analysis, grounded in economics and education, of the ways to make better schooling available to all of the nation’s low-income children. — David K. Cohen, John Dewey Collegiate Professor of Education and professor of public policy, University of Michigan

Restoring Opportunities: The Crisis of Inequality and the Challenge for American Education ought to be required reading for the White House and leaders of the "My Brother's Keepers" project. — Eric Cooper, Huffington Post

This is a must read for anyone desiring an understanding of the inequality that exists in the educational system as well a sensible, well-researched argument about how to improve. — H.J. Bultinck, CHOICE

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About the Authors

Greg J. Duncan is Distinguished Professor in the School of Education at the University of California, Irvine. With a 1974 PhD in economics, Duncan spent the first two decades of his career at the University of Michigan working on, and ultimately directing, the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) data collection project, which, in 2001, was named by the National Science Foundation to be one of the fifty most significant NSF-funded projects in the organization’s history. Beginning in the late 1980s, Duncan engaged in a number of interdisciplinary research networks and began to focus on the impacts of family and neighborhood conditions on children’s cognitive and behavioral development. During his 1995–2008 tenure at Northwestern University, he was the Edwina S. Tarry Professor in the School of Education and Social Policy. He coauthored Higher Ground: New Hope for the Working Poor and Their Children (2007) and coedited Neighborhood Poverty (1997), Consequences of Growing Up Poor (1997) and, most recently, Whither Opportunity? Rising Inequality, Schools, and Children’s Life Chances (2011). He was president of the Midwest Economics Association in 2004, the Population Association of America in 2008, and the Society for Research in Child Development (2009–2011). Duncan was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2010.

Richard J. Murnane, an economist, is the Thompson Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE). He is also a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, a Fellow of the Society of Labor Economists, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Before earning his PhD in economics from Yale University, Murnane taught high school mathematics for three years. In recent years he has pursued three lines of research. With MIT professors Frank Levy and David Autor, he has examined how computer-based technological change has affected skill demands in the U.S. economy, and the effectiveness of educational policies in responding to changing skill demands. Murnane and Levy have written two books on this topic. The second line of research examines the sources of the growing gap in educational outcomes between children from low-income and higher-income families and the effectiveness of alternative strategies for improving the life chances low-income children. Murnane coedited (with Greg Duncan) the 2011 volume Whither Opportunity? Rising Inequality, Schools, and Children’s Life Chances. The third line of research focuses on examining trends and patterns in U.S. high school graduation rates and their explanations. Murnane’s summary of the evidence on this topic was published in the June 2013 issue of the Journal of Economic Literature. In 2011 Murnane and his colleague John Willett published the book Methods Matter: Improving Causal Inference in Educational and Social Science Research.

Table of Contents

Interview with Authors

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