Money, Not Color, Determines a Child's Academic Success

In the New York Times, Sean F. Reardon writes that parental income plays a bigger role in the success of schoolchildren than race.

Posted:
 
kidsinclass42813575hc
Generic image (iStockphoto/Thinkstock)

Ethnicity might not play as large a role in charting educational success as experts previously thought, writes Sean F. Reardon in the New York Times; it's all about how much the parents earn.

To make this trend concrete, consider two children, one from a family with income of $165,000 and one from a family with income of $15,000. These incomes are at the 90th and 10th percentiles of the income distribution nationally, meaning that 10 percent of children today grow up in families with incomes below $15,000 and 10 percent grow up in families with incomes above $165,000.

In the 1980s, on an 800-point SAT-type test scale, the average difference in test scores between two such children would have been about 90 points; today it is 125 points. This is almost twice as large as the 70-point test score gap between white and black children. Family income is now a better predictor of children’s success in school than race.

The same pattern is evident in other, more tangible, measures of educational success, like college completion. In a study similar to mine, Martha J. Bailey and Susan M. Dynarski, economists at the University of Michigan, found that 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.

Read Sean F. Reardon's entire piece at the New York Times.

The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff.

Like The Root on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

The Root 100 People's Choice Awards  
Sept. 19 2014 8:34 AM