Yesterday under the headline “Higher Education Gap May Slow Economic Mobility“The New York Times covered a new Brookings Institution study warning that “widening gaps in higher education between rich and poor, whites and minorities, could soon lead to a downturn in opportunities for the poorest families.” A better headline would have been “Values Gap Behind Possible Decline In Economic Mobility.”
The times notes that “the study highlights the powerful role that college can have in helping people change their station in life. Someone born into a family in the lowest fifth of earners who graduates from college has a 19 percent chance of joining the highest fifth of earners in adulthood and a 62 percent chance of joining the middle class or better.” But this doesn’t really tell us why some children from poor families our able to attain a college education and others are not.
Heritage Foundation analyst Stuart Butler does explain later in the article: “We may well have an economy that rewards certain traits that are typically passed on from parents to children; the importance of education, optimism, a propensity to work hard, entrepreneurship and so on.” Just some of the findings linking strong families to academic success include:
- Adolescents with paternal role models tend to have higher academic achievement.
- Students who frequently participate in structured non-school activities are more likely to join school clubs, prepare for class, and feel optimistic about their future.
- Adolescents who are satisfied with their family life are less likely to exhibit problems in school.