The Journal of the American Sociological Association just published an article (PDF) that intersects the criminal justice system with the education system. The findings are huge!
In a nutshell, low test scores in pubic urban schools (in this case, Chicago) are attributed more to the levels of violence, than crappy teachers, or anything else. One of the many take-aways is that the education system and the criminal justice system have to be viewed together and not separate.
So where political economy comes in is the Weberian elephant in the room: socioeconomic status of urban school children is not just determined by education, the occupation of their parents, or the income of their parents, but also by their interaction with violence and the criminal justice system. In other words, human capital.
For urban centers, the authors found that it wasn’t so much that urban schools didn’t have money (they don’t, and the authors admit that), but that they were not spending money in the right places. There’s a distribution problem as well as a cash flow problem. And it’s a political problem when governors (like in Pennsylvania) restrict cash flow to starve out unions.
This has huge implications for teacher’s unions, which have been taking a beating since the recession. It also has implications in criminology, socioeconomic status, public policy, and plain old macro economics.
This may be the beginnings of a new formula for socioeconomic status – which would be a game changer in Sociology, Economics and Political Science.