Educational Expansion in Mid-Nineteenth Century Massachusetts: Human Capital Formation or Structural Reinforcement?

Harvard Educational Review, Vol. 46, pp. 521-552, November 1976

32 Pages Posted: 1 May 2008

See all articles by Alexander J. Field

Alexander J. Field

Santa Clara University - Leavey School of Business - Economics Department

Abstract

Economists and educational historians have put forward two major kinds of explanations for the coincidence between the industrial revolution and the development of mass public schooling in the United States. Industrial change, some maintain, created a demand for technicians, managers, skilled workers, and highly trained professionals; the rise of public education, then, involved a relatively automatic and decentralized response to a changing market for labor. Others argue that social disorganization wrought by the manufacturing system led members of elite groups to establish and support public education as a means to ensure the stability of the social arrangements from which they profited. This article uses a wide range of data from nineteenth century Massachusetts to assess the relative merits of the two schools of thought. While both explanations are accurate in some degree, in Massachusetts at least, the actions of economic elites in the political arena did more to establish mass public education than did the demands of individuals in the educational marketplace.

Keywords: Economics of Education, Human Capital, Socialization, Skills, Industrialization, Massachusetts

JEL Classification: I21, I22, I24, J24, N61, O15

Suggested Citation

Field, Alexander J., Educational Expansion in Mid-Nineteenth Century Massachusetts: Human Capital Formation or Structural Reinforcement?. Harvard Educational Review, Vol. 46, pp. 521-552, November 1976 . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1127083

Alexander J. Field (Contact Author)

Santa Clara University - Leavey School of Business - Economics Department ( email )

500 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA California 95053
United States
408 554 4348 (Phone)
408 554 2331 (Fax)

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