We all know the gap between the rich and poor in the United States has been growing for decades—and there’s been no let-up of that trend during the current economic recovery.
That’s bad enough. However, unless we confront that problem and change the existing institutions, it’s only going to get worse in the decades ahead. That’s because, as Michelle Chan [ht: ja] explains, the country is leaving way too many children behind.
Poverty limits access to basic resources like nutrition and decent childcare. But a geometrically expanding class divide looms over all income brackets, as wealthier parents zealously splurge on “enrichment expenditures”. . .
So poor parents struggling just to cover basic food and shelter face both massive income inequality in their day-to-day lives, plus a seven-fold gap in the amount they can “invest” to help their children thrive in the future. Given that social mobility is already suppressed at all income levels—with children’s future earnings highly correlated with the earnings of their parents—the Herculean amount of “catch up” poor parents must undertake just to get on the same footing as their higher-earning peers makes the great American wealth gap seem even more devastating, for both today’s working households and generations to come. . .
economic status is a growing factor in academic outcomes, as “the relationship between income and achievement has grown sharply” over the last 50 years. So wealth trumps intellect on many levels.
In other words, the income gap is a growing factor in academic outcomes—and the children at the bottom are falling further and further behind.
Why? The achievement gap stems in part from the difficulty poor parents have in educating their children at home, as well as the massive funding gaps in programs like subsidized childcare and Head Start. It’s also because poor children are segregated outside the home into poorly funded and overburdened schools. The exact opposite has been taking place at the top, where both private and public expenditures are moving the children of wealthy households further and further ahead.
All of which means that, just as the income gap has grown sharply since the mid-1970s, so has the relationship between income and academic achievement.
The growing class divide in the United States looms over all aspects of society, especially the fate of our children.