Visiting Speaker - Michelle Jackson

Michelle Jackson Event PowerPoint slide

Event Date

11/12/2019 - 14:55

Michelle Jackson (Sociology, Stanford University)
Manifesto for a Dream: Inequality, Constraint, and an Agenda for Radical Reform
2:55-4:10PM, Klarman Hall KG70 (Rhodes-Rawlings Auditorium)
Meets as part of Controversies About Inequality

It is hard to take seriously the idea that we hold an authentic commitment to equality of opportunity when we do so little to realize it. Although the research literature contains more than sufficient evidence that this country has an inequality problem, neither politicians nor the social science community has mobilized in response. These communities have instead developed a strikingly narrow approach to policy reform, an ostensibly science-based approach that works on the assumption that the best that we can do is to contain the problem. It is largely taken for granted that we will never solve it.

In this talk, Professor Jackson argues that we will never make strides toward equality if we do not start to think radically. The appeal of precisely focused proposals for reform has diverted our attention from the root problem that current policy interventions are designed to address. She proposes an alternative, more radical, approach to policy reform that proceeds from a scientific foundation. In addition to any discussion about expedient, small-scale interventions, we need a wider discussion about where inequality comes from and what types of larger-scale changes might be needed to eradicate it. If this is truly a country committed to bringing its institutions into alignment with its commitments, we must abandon the policy of containment.


Michelle Jackson is Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Stanford University. During the 2018-19 academic year she was an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, also at Stanford. Her main research interests lie in the sociology of education and social inequality, with a focus on understanding the power and persistence of socioeconomic background in shaping life chances in late industrial societies.