Smart? Better Rich!

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A lot of times you hear that the wealth divide is growing. In other words, the gap between the people with money and the people without…is getting bigger than the Grand Canyon. It’s huge.

We like to think that this is the country of dreams. If you can dream it, you can do it. All you have to do is pull yourself up by your bootstraps. All you have to be is smart, or at least clever.

Well, unfortunately, a new study shows that’s just not true.

Let me tell you what the study reveals.

The study is by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.

And what it shows is that fortune favors the kids …well, with fortunes.

Specifically, the rich kindergarteners with test scores in the bottom half, has a 7 in 10 chance of reaching high socio-economic status among peers as a young adult. A poor kindergartener with scores in the top half, because he or she is smart? That kid has only a 3 in 10 chance.

So the kid who starts out poor…even the bright kids who start out poor…are more likely to stay poor.

And the disparities continue. The kids with little money do worse in high school. And the report shows that disadvantaged kids with low math scores don’t immediately enroll in college. The rich kids with low math scores? They are more likely to enroll in a four-year college despite those scores, and they’re more likely to complete college degrees than even the high scoring poor kids.

You might wonder why.

The report says that the kids with money often have safety nets to catch them when they fall. The disadvantaged kids are less likely to have that kind of support.

I think it’s a lot more than whether mom and dad have milk and cookies for you at home.

Multiple studies have been done on bias, explicit and implicit. Even if someone thinks they are not biased, it is only natural to feel more comfortable, more relaxed and more able to identify with a job candidate who is similar to you. Since the well-off have all the well-paying jobs, it is no surprise that someone with a different background is going to start off disadvantaged in a job interview, and that falling back that started in school, just keeps going on.

The report recommends some policy changes that it says will help. But like all policy recommendations, I find these vague and hard to implement. There are four.

The report recommends:

  • interventions in early childhood education
  • continued interventions from kindergarten through 12th grade
  • Improved and expanded counseling in high school so that more students have the information and social supports they need to transition from high school to post-secondary education and training
  • And ensure that talented low-socioeconomic students get the most for their education by integrating career exploration and providing access to high-quality work experience at the high school and college levels.

I’m not convinced that these policy changes will fix what’s broken. Everyone says they want the best and the brightest, but at least on paper, what they’re often getting is the richest.

And I don’t have answers, but I’m going to keep on trying to be smart whether or not I get rich.

Money

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