Learning and Teaching in an Unequal World: How Children Navigate Social Inequalities and What We Should Teach Them
Xin Yang

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



Yale University

Primary Discipline

Today’s children live against a striking backdrop of social inequalities that they will have to come to terms with as they grow into tomorrow’s adults. Given how quickly children pick up cues of inequality and how early they develop proto-political views, it is important to learn about their intuitive theories of social inequalities and prepare them to rectify inequalities and build a more equitable future world. Kate’s dissertation project builds on this foundation. She provides new insights into the development of more complex understandings of wealth, poverty, and social inequalities across ages and cultures. Using an experimental manipulation, she also shows that when children are randomly assigned to a rich social group, they develop stronger justifications for social inequalities, paving the way for future empirical and applied work. Her work also sheds light on potential educational interventions to mitigate perpetuations of inequality and stigma of poverty in future generations. Parents and educators can thus act to promote children’s understandings of social inequalities and increase their support for equality by more carefully selecting the narratives they provide children.
About Xin Yang
Xin (Kate) Yang is a Ph.D. candidate in Psychology at Yale University. Her research broadly focuses on social inequalities and group cognition. Over the last five years, she has conducted more than 10 research projects broadly related to education. She has studied a range of topics, including children’s evaluations and beliefs of talent versus effort, children’s developing appreciation of those who overcome internal or external constraints to achieve academic success, as well as intergroup bias, cooperation, and social inequalities and social structure. Ultimately, she hopes her work will help with reducing inequalities, combating biases, promoting cooperation, and creating a more just world. Kate holds master’s degrees in Psychology from Yale University (M.S. and M. Phil.) and bachelor’s degrees in both Psychology and Economics from Tsinghua University.Apart from her experience in academia, Kate also has other unique experiences that prepared her for a career dedicated to promoting equity in education. She is the first person in her low-SES family to obtain a bachelor’s degree. When she was 9, her parents brought her from a poor region to a more developed part of China to seek better education, which became a life-changing experience for her. As she traveled across China, she witnessed great inequalities in the distribution of educational resources. This led her to found a volunteer association that mobilized hundreds of volunteers in her city to help students from underdeveloped regions. For example, she organized book-donations and took groups of volunteers to work with elementary schools in a poor village.

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