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[xmca] Widening achievement gap between rich and poor

I just received a very relevant paper by Sean Reardon titled “The Widening Academic Achievement Gap between the Rich & the Poor: New Evidence & Possible Explanations”
It is to appear in the forthcoming volume, Social Inequalities and Educational Disadvantage. Murnane, R.M. & Duncan, G. (Eds.). Washington, DC; Brookings Institution.

I don't know Professor Reardon so I don't know that I should be sharing too much, but I've pasted the executive summary below. The chapter presents evidence that the achievement gap between rich and poor has been widening over the past 50 years.

Once again, not a pretty picture. -greg

Executive Summary 

This chapter examines whether and how the relationship between family socioeconomic characteristics and academic achievement has changed during the last fifty years. In particular, it investigates the extent to which the rising income inequality of the last four decades has been paralleled by a similar increase in the income‐achievement gradient. As the income gap between high‐ and low‐income families has widened, has the achievement gap between children in high‐ and low‐income families also widened? 

The answer, in brief, is yes. The achievement gap between children from high‐ and low‐income families is roughly 50 percent larger among children born in 2001 than among those born twenty‐five years earlier. In fact, it appears that the income‐achievement gap has been growing steadily for at least fifty years, though the data are less certain for cohorts of children born before 1970. In this chapter, I describe and discuss these trends in some detail. In addition to the key finding that the income‐achievement gap appears to
have widened substantially, there are a number of other important findings. 

First, the income‐achievement gap (defined here as the income difference between a child from a family at the ninetieth percentile of the family‐income distribution and a child from a family at the tenth percentile) is now more than twice as large as the black‐white achievement gap. Fifty years ago, in contrast, the black‐white gap was twice as large as the income gap. Second, as Duncan and Magnuson (this volume) note, the income‐achievement gap is large when children enter kindergarten and does not appear to grow (or narrow) appreciably as children progress through school. Third, although rising income inequality may play a role in the growing income‐achievement gap, it does not appear to be the dominant factor. The gap appears to have grown at least partly because of an increase in the achievement returns to income for families above the median income level: a given difference in family incomes now corresponds to a 20 to 50 percent larger difference in achievement than it did for children born in the 1970s. Moreover, evidence from other studies suggests that this may be in part a result of increasing parental investment in children’s cognitive development. Finally, the growing income‐achievement gap does not appear to be a result of a growing achievement gap between children with highly and less‐educated parents. Indeed, the relationship between parental education and children’s achievement has remained relatively stable during the last fifty years, while the relationship between income and achievement has grown sharply. Family income is now early as strong as parental education in predicting children’s achievement.
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