Sociologist on the growing achievement gaps between upper, middle, and lower-class children

A sociologist explains the “substantial” growing achievement gaps in recent decades among students of different classes:

One way to see this is to look at the scores of rich and poor students on standardized math and reading tests over the last 50 years. When I did this using information from a dozen large national studies conducted between 1960 and 2010, I found that the rich-poor gap in test scores is about 40 percent larger now than it was 30 years ago…

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.

And why is this happening?

It boils down to this: 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…

High-income families are increasingly focusing their resources — their money, time and knowledge of what it takes to be successful in school — on their children’s cognitive development and educational success. They are doing this because educational success is much more important than it used to be, even for the rich.

In other words, it appears social reproduction is occurring through the schooling system. Sounds like the ideas of sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, who argued social class differences are reinforced by education systems, as well as sociologist Annette Lareau who suggests different classes have different parenting approaches. In the end, those who already have resources can put them to use in getting the best out of the system while those with fewer resources can’t keep pace.

0 thoughts on “Sociologist on the growing achievement gaps between upper, middle, and lower-class children

  1. Pingback: Moms really like libraries | Legally Sociable

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