Tuesday, June 2, 2015

A Fact to File Where You Can Find It

You know that assumption we're supposed to have in this country, that everyone has opportunity if they just work hard enough? A poor kid who's smart can go to college and come out ahead, right?

Well, yeah, it is possible, but it's not as possible as most of us think. Here are some stats from a study that followed high school students from 2002 until now.

The students were divided into quartiles by their parents' incomes, education levels, and occupations. Overall, 70 percent of students planned to earn at least a bachelors' degree (87 percent of the top quartile kids vs. 58 percent of the bottom quartile kids, but still -- pretty high percentages).

Thirteen years have gone by since the study began, 10 years since the students would have graduated from high school. How many of each group have achieved their goal of a bachelor's degree?

Sixty percent of the top-quartile students. But only 14 percent of the bottom quartile students.

And this is where someone insists that the top-quartile students are just smarter than the bottom-quartile students, right?

Wrong. The high school students were given a number of tests in math and reading, so the researchers have an idea about the aptitude of the students from the different quartiles. Top-quartile students who scored 75 percent or higher for the math test graduated from college 74 percent of the time. But bottom quartile students with the same scores graduated only 41 percent of the time. According to the story, "a poor teenager with top scores and a rich teenager with mediocre scores are equally likely to graduate with a bachelor’s degree."

None of this says that a hypothetical poor kid can't "make it" today. But the odds are not in your favor. That's the opposite of the country I want to live in.

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