Last week, I wrote generally on educational inequality in college. This week, I would like to begin an in-depth analysis of this problem starting with what I believe to be the onset problem: income inequality.
As we have previously discussed, the inequality in education begins well before children enter the school system and its effects are life long. If we start at the beginning, we can see that income equality is the beginning of the vicious yet repetitious cycle of the inequalities in our education system.
Income inequality is the persistent income gap we have in America that began to grow around the 1970s and continues to thrive today. This means that the Americans at the top of the economic food chain are pulling further away from the rest of the nation and have been noticeably for the past 30 years.
Income inequality can be defined as the unequal distribution of income, wages, or wealth among the United States population. The income gap that continues to grow can be partly attributed to the "contest" or "American Dream" mindset most Americans have grown up learning about.
Americans are taught that with hard work and dedication, we can amount to anything regardless of race, class, gender, or sexual orientation, but this could not be further from reality. The reality is, most of the time we end up within the same socioeconomic status as our parents.
Several studies have shown that there is little room for upward social mobility in the U.S. which could be partly due to the infrastructure of our country beginning in the late 1970s. During this time, there were several changes regarding tax, unionization, and policies on wages and employment. Therefore, if everybody has neutral social mobility, meaning they do not move up or down, the rich will stay rich, and the poor will remain poor; thus, a continuous income gap.
Income inequality in the United States can also be attributed to the difference in wages among skilled workers and labor workers. Despite the reasons that have to lead to the income gap in America, there is no doubt it exists and impacts everyone despite our socioeconomic status because it affects the overall growth of our nation.
The issue of income equality is relevant because it impacts our society, specifically our education system. The U.S. argues to be a fair contest, offering free and equal education based on a standard curriculum, essentially preparing all children for the same future rather than focusing on their specific strengths and talents. Along with this is the simple fact that those parents on the top of the economic food chain are offering their children opportunities, that parents on a fixed income cannot provide their children.
This leads to an early advantage among the wealthier children that begins before they enter school and is consistent throughout the rest of their lives. Studies have consistently shown time and time again the importance of preschool education. In addition to the normal intellectual learning that takes place, the children learn how to socialize with their peers at an early age developing better communication skills.
This difference in education only grows once enrolled a common curriculum that does not even out the playing field but just makes it more significant by preparing all children for the same future and this is why those skills learned at an early age in addition to several others is a critical factor in continued success.
Private school is one of the most defining factors of income and educational inequality. Any family not earning more than the median household income of $61,372 is not even considering the possibility of a private school, nor do they have time to understand the "ins and outs" of magnet vs. charter schools to provide their children with the best possible opportunities. Studies have shown the positive impact of extracurricular activities, and despite many efforts to reduce out of pocket costs, these activities, organized sports and club leagues are still out of reach for many families.
All of these advantages carry over and further the gap when these children are rounding out their high school careers. The same children who could not afford private school and organized sports are now not applying for college because they can not afford to take the SATs and ACTs more than the one time they are offered in public school. Therefore, they can not attempt to "super score." They also cannot afford the inflated application fees that come with higher education.
The few children from these families that make it to college continue to experience significant issues and challenges because their financial situation still does not often improve. Most times it will worsen because now their family is struggling to meet the needs of a college student.
Once you are behind, it becomes harder and harder to catch up, and this struggle is often accompanied by mental and emotional challenges that can be further discouraging. I believe that by addressing the serious issue of income inequality in America, we can begin to repair a broken education system and provide equal opportunities for all Americans and place within reach a better quality of life across our society.