26 Oct 2014

Poor kids who do everything right don’t do better than rich kids who do everything wrong

America is the land of opportunity, just for some more than others.
That's because, in large part, inequality starts in the crib. Rich parents can afford to spend more time and money on their kids, and that gap has only grown the past few decades. Indeed, economists Greg Duncan and Richard Murnane calculate that, between 1972 and 2006, high-income parents increased their spending on "enrichment activities" for their children by 151 percent in inflation-adjusted terms, compared to 57 percent for low-income parents.
But, of course, it's not just a matter of dollars and cents. It's also a matter of letters and words. Affluent parents talk to their kids three more hours a week on average than poor parents, which is critical during a child's formative early years. That's why, as Stanford professor Sean Reardonexplains, "rich students are increasingly entering kindergarten much better prepared to succeed in school than middle-class students," and they're staying that way.
It's an educational arms race that's leaving many kids far, far behind.
It's depressing, but not nearly so much as this:
Even poor kids who do everything right don't do much better than rich kids who do everything wrong. Advantages and disadvantages, in other words, tend to perpetuate themselves. You can see that in the above chart, based on a new paper from Richard Reeves and Isabel Sawhill, presented at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston's annual conference, which is underway.
Specifically, rich high school dropouts remain in the top about as much as poor college grads stay stuck in the bottom — 14 versus 16 percent, respectively. Not only that, but these low-income strivers are just as likely to end up in the bottom as these wealthy ne'er-do-wells. Some meritocracy.
What's going on? Well, it's all about glass floors and glass ceilings. Rich kids who can go work for the family business — and, in Canada at least, 70 percent of the sons of the top 1 percent do just that — or inherit the family estate don't need a high school diploma to get ahead. It's an extreme example of what economists call "opportunity hoarding." That includes everything from legacy college admissions to unpaid internships that let affluent parents rig the game a little more in their children's favor.


  1. Since no one believes in capping personal wealth (like was done in Japan after WWII) then no one believes in returning opportunity to those who are not born into often stolen wealth. American has always been a country that loved to make money off of poverty.
    We need change but it has to be thorough and deep. Those who think we can do it by marching and singing will be shocked and soon.

  2. How many different ways do Americans need to hear that our monetary system is a fraud designed to keep some at the top and leave everyone else behind except a very few really lucky or incredibly intelligent.

    How much human mind-power is being thrown away by people forced by this system to take jobs they never wanted?

    Why should people be forced to throw their lives away on things they don't want to support and don't want to do just because banks will not loan money to the poor?

    The money isn't real people, it's 98% DIGITAL ENTRY by the Fed and 8 times the cash flow BOOKKEEPING ENTRY at retail banks; in short, NONE OF IT EVER ACTUALLY EXISTS EXCEPT UNDER A BOGUS SYSTEM OF MANAGEMENT!

  3. Tatiana Covington26 October 2014 at 20:15

    People are in fact not equal.

  4. Conservatives love to claim that they believe in competition and rewarding achievement but the truth is that once they're on top, they try to shut down both.