From the paper:
As the income gap between high- and low-income families has widened, has the achievement gap between children in high- and low-income families also widened?
The answer, in brief, is yes. The achievement gap between children from high- and low-income families is roughly 30 to 40 percent larger among children born in 2001 than among those born twenty-five years earlier.
From the article:
The children of the wealthy are pulling away from their lower-class peers — the same way their parents are pulling away from their peers’ parents. When it comes to college completion rates, the rich-poor gulf has grown by 50% since the 1980s. Upper income families are also spending vastly more on their children compared to the poor than they did 40 years ago, and spending more time as parents cultivating their intellectual development.
It may not simply be a matter of the rich getting richer, and the poor getting poorer — although that certainly is a part of it. The growing differences in student achievement don’t strictly mimic the way income inequality has skyrocketed since the middle of the 20th century. It’s actually worse than that. Today, there’s a much stronger connection between income and a child’s academic success than in the past. Having money is simply more important than it used to be when it comes to getting a good education. Or, as Reardon puts it, “a dollar of income…appears to buy more academic achievement than it did several decades a ago.”
Even more discouraging: The differences start early in a child’s life, then linger. Reardon notes another study which found that the rich-poor achievement gap between students is already big when they start kindergarden, and doesn’t change much over time. His own analysis shows a similar pattern.
The study (and the articles derived from it) appear to be a sort of Rorschach test. People draw the conclusions from it that best support their views. So, for example, those who believe that the naturally talented are garnering higher incomes and, not surprisingly, have greater academic achievement see that in the study.
From my vantage point the study is mostly a teaser for the author’s book which I strongly suspect I will never read and, consequently, not particularly helpful or interesting. I can’t actually tell from the paper itself but he does not appear to control for some things that I would think to be significant. So, for example, he doesn’t appear to control either for command of the English language or for certain areas in which there has been extraordinary income growth over the last forty years and require high levels of academic achievement. Speaking English is closely correlated both to income and academic achievement. Physicians need to do better in school than more than half of the population and they have high incomes. Their incomes have growth so rapidly over the last 40 years and there are enough of them that it must certainly skew all sorts of findings.
Is the paper just another way of saying that we’ve had a high rate of immigration over the last several decades and physicians have high incomes?