You want my advice, you should pour a tall cup-a-Joe and settle in to read this essay by Sean Reardon in Sunday’s New York Times on education and wealth. He covers a lot of ground, but the theme that resonated most with me is one I’ve stressed often in these parts regarding the growing evidence of linkages between increased income inequality and diminished opportunities. A prominent channel through which this occurs is, of course, education.
It’s not just that rich kids do better in school than poor kids. That’s an old problem.
What is news is that in the United States over the last few decades these differences in educational success between high- and lower-income students have grown substantially.
Moreover, these growing differences show up in college access and completion.
…the proportion of students from upper-income families who earn a bachelor’s degree has increased by 18 percentage points over a 20-year period, while the completion rate of poor students has grown by only 4 points.
…15 percent of high-income students from the high school class of 2004 enrolled in a highly selective college or university, while fewer than 5 percent of middle-income and 2 percent of low-income students did.
How, though, do these developments link up with inequality? As Reardon sees it “the academic gap is widening because rich students are increasingly entering kindergarten much better prepared to succeed in school than middle-class students. This difference in preparation persists through elementary and high school.” (more…)