As the Occupy Wall Street movement and the national discourse on “the 99%" have thrust rising income inequality and its consequences into the spotlight, Stanford University’s Sean F. Reardon provides another reason to be concerned about differences between “haves” and “have-nots": The academic achievement gap between high- and low-income students has been growing for half a century and is now almost twice as large as that between blacks and whites.
In Whither Opportunity? Rising Inequality and the Uncertain Life Chances of Low-Income Children, a recently released book from the Russell Sage Foundation, Mr. Reardon looks at test-score differences between students from families at the 90th percentile of income distribution and those at the 10th percentile on 19 national reading and mathematics exams given at various grade levels. High income is increasingly associated with academic success, which may be due to high-income parents’ increased investment in education, writes Mr. Reardon, a professor of education. Most of the data come from before the 2008 recession.
Mr. Reardon also notes that a large gap is already present in kindergarten, and it’s not explained—as it often was in the past—by parents’ education or race.
A version of this article appeared in the February 22, 2012 edition of Education Week as Income Divide Increases Academic Gap