Second Chances or Growing Gaps? Education in Adulthood and Inequality over the Life Course
Jane Furey

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



University of Michigan

Primary Discipline

Higher levels of education are positively associated with many social and economic benefits. But what happens when education is completed at older ages? Although individuals aged 25 and older make up a large share of postsecondary students and policies that support adults? education are expanding, the extent to which adults benefit from additional education is unclear. In my dissertation, I adopt a life course perspective to emphasize that education earned at different life stages has different returns and consequences. I use several longitudinal datasets and quantitative methods to examine the economic (dis)advantages of different education pathways. In one paper, I investigate how adults? education pathways have changed across multiple cohorts. In a second paper, I show how education trajectories shape earnings inequality in early adulthood. In a third paper, I use decomposition techniques to examine how racial inequality in education over the life course contributes to Black-White earnings inequality in mid-life. My dissertation contributes to education research in three ways. First, my findings will improve our understanding of patterns of adults? education pathways. Second, my work contributes to a growing body of research on heterogeneity in returns to education. Third, my research highlights how adults? education relates to inequality and stratification. Adults? education may provide second chances, or cement inequalities established at younger ages. Taken together, my dissertation enhances our understanding of how adults? education shapes inequality over the life course.
About Jane Furey
Jane Furey is a PhD candidate in Public Policy and Sociology at the University of Michigan, where she is also pursuing a master?s degree in Statistics. Her research is broadly focused on the relationship between education and socioeconomic inequality, and how variation in access to and returns to education is associated with socioeconomic inequality. Jane?s dissertation explores educational attainment over the life course and investigates the extent to which education attained later in adulthood benefits individuals and reduces inequality. She aims to produce research that contributes to our understanding of heterogeneity in educational experiences and outcomes among adults. Jane?s work has been published in the American Sociological Review, Research on Social Stratification and Mobility, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, and the Journal for Research on Educational Effectiveness. Jane is a predoctoral trainee at the University of Michigan?s Population Studies Center, a student fellow at the Stone Center for Inequality Dynamics and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow. She received a Bachelor?s degree in Sociology from Brown University and previously worked as an education policy evaluator.

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