Discussion paper

DP2924 Public Education and the Melting Pot

This Paper proposes a theoretical framework that combines the role of education as a cultural melting pot with its function as an instrument of human capital accumulation. It highlights the important role of public education in promoting social cohesion: requiring minority parents to pay twice for culturally distinct private education is a powerful incentive for cultural assimilation through public education. Conversely, subsidizing private schooling through vouchers or tax credits increases social polarization, which may partly explain the strong opposition to voucher experiments. Public education is especially effective in promoting the cultural assimilation of poorer immigrants, but may not be effective in dealing with large numbers of high-income immigrants.


Justman, M and M Gradstein (2001), ‘DP2924 Public Education and the Melting Pot‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 2924. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp2924