Is education the most important equalizer?

by Grace

Jeffrey Selingo, author of College (Un)bound: The Future of Higher Education, and What It Means for Students, spoke with NPR about “why colleges are no longer an equalizing force”.

… One of the most disturbing numbers I came across in research for this book was that if you come from a family with a family income above $90,000, you have a 1 in 2 chance of getting a bachelor’s degree by the time you’re in your mid-20s. If you come from a family under $35,000, you have a 1 in 17 chance.

“One of the fears, and one of my fears, is that we might become a country where the next generation is less educated than the generation that preceded it.”

If current trends continue, the next generation is also much more likely to have grown up in a household without a father.

Missing fathers are at the core of a ‘vicious cycle’ of poverty and low education levels.

The chance of a child ending up poor declines by 82 percent when raised in a two-parent family.

Which one factor is more important in equalizing financial opportunities – college or fathers?  I don’t know, but if I had a magic wand and could change only one of these, I’d put fathers back into American families.  The education part would probably start to take care of itself.

Related:  Non-marital births by education level as part of the growing class divide (Cost of College)

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4 Comments to “Is education the most important equalizer?”

  1. Unfortunately, the situation for many, probably most, of those families that lack a father is that the father is too dysfunctional to actually BE a father. Kids in families where the dad is drunken, or abusing drugs, or beating them, are not going to do well. Sadly, it just seems that more young men are dysfunctional these days. I think blaming fatherless families is simply a lazy excuse for not dealing with lousy education and lack of opportunities. Yes, sure, a kid in a family with a nice upstanding supportive father is likely to do better in life – but those nice upstanding supportive men seem to be in short supply these days. We have to deal with societal problems as they are, not wish for something that isn’t going to happen.

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  2. The chance of a child ending up poor declines by 82 percent when raised in a two-parent family.

    I think that there is a confusion of correlation with causation here. Single parenthood, being the child of a single parent, poverty, and low education are all highly correlated. It is not so clear which factors are causes and which are effects, particularly as there are vicious-cycle feedback loops.

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  3. I agree that we have to deal with societal problems as they are. The big question, of course, is exactly HOW to do it. Lots of different opinions out there.

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  4. “It is not so clear which factors are causes and which are effects, particularly as there are vicious-cycle feedback loops.”

    Yes, although missing fathers do seem to be of a more core element than education

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