Archive for November 1, 2011

Does economic inequality in a nation influence cheating in computing class?

I recently watched this TED talk, and it’s been influencing my thinking a lot over the last week.  I don’t often follow links to TED talks, but I’m really glad that I did on this one. It’s by Richard Wilkinson on how income inequality in a country influences social good.

Wilkinson looks at a variety of social good variables, from number of prisoners per 100K citizens (above), to amount of trust in a society, to number of violent crimes.  He finds no correlation between the gross domestic product per capita and these social goods — richer and poorer countries have these problems.  But then, he creates a new index: a social inequality index.  He takes the gross domestic product per capita in the top quintile of the country, and divides it by the GDP/capita in the bottom quintile.

The social good variables completely correlate with the inequality index, as you can see from the screen cap on prison populations.  Watch the video.  He suggests that what leads to social unrest is not the wealth, but the gap between the wealthiest and the poorest in a given society.

I wonder if this has any implications for we computing educators.  I was particularly struck with the close correlation between trust and inequality.  One of our rampant problems is cheating.  I don’t know any multinational studies of cheating.  Do students cheat less in countries where there is less inequality?  Do you cheat more if you think that the system is stacked against you, and you need an edge to get ahead of the competition?  Note that Wilkinson’s data does explain differences between US States and Canadian provinces.  (I also note sadly that Atlanta was just judged by the US Census as being one of the most inequitable cities in the country.)

November 1, 2011 at 9:19 am 4 comments


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