Who gets ahead? The ones who are predetermined to

Why do some people get ahead and others fall behind? Is it something they’re doing right or wrong? Or is it just the way it is? Are they victims or beneficiaries of the situation into which they were born?

NPR reports today on a study in Baltimore that appears to destroy the notion that education is the great equalizer. Instead, the study says, it’s family and money. You either have it or you don’t. End of story. Sort of.

The study followed 800 kids in Baltimore and found that, basically, you’re fate is fairly determined the minute you’re born.

The kids who got a better start — because their parents were married and working — ended up better off. Most of the poor kids from single-parent families stayed poor.

Just 33 children — out of nearly 800 — moved from the low-income to high-income bracket. And a similarly small number born into low-income families had college degrees by the time they turned 28.

It also found that white men can make the same mistakes as non-whites, and still get ahead.

The researchers found that more affluent white men in the study reported the highest frequency of drug abuse and binge drinking, yet they still had the most upward mobility.

“The extent of what we refer to as problem behavior is greatest among whites and less so among African-Americans,” Alexander says. “Whites of advantaged background had the highest percentages who did all three of those things — that was binge drinking, any drug use and heavy drug use.”

These numbers, from Alexander’s research, show the racial disparities in men with similar drug problems and arrest records:

At age 22, 89 percent of white high school dropouts were working, compared with 40 percent of black dropouts. And by age 28, 41 percent of white men born into low-income families had criminal convictions, compared with 49 percent of the black men from similar backgrounds.

Don’t bother reading the comments section on the NPR site.

  • Jack Boardman

    Oh…I KNOW better than to read the comments on the NPR site. Been there…done that.

  • “Don’t bother reading the comments section on the NPR site.”

    You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.

    • Tyler

      Apparently you haven’t browsed the Star Tribune’s comment section…

      • jon

        two words:
        You Tube

      • Ha! I’m registered there, too.

        Try Politico, CNN, or even ABCNews if you REALLY want the trolls.

  • David

    I have long thought the role of the family was more important the the “quality” of the school. My mother has taught in Minneapolis for over 30 years in both poor schools and affluent schools, She describes families who are supportive have kids with a more promising future. We need to have parents who will ensure their kids get to school on time and do the work. Some parents can’t or won’t.

    • Lisa

      Agreed. But it is also a good reminder that many a parent WANTS to help, but simply doesn’t know how. I’m involved with an organization that helps parents realize simple things that they can do at home to help keep their kids engaged with learning and that it doesn’t take a load of money and that they don’t need to have a college education to be any help to their kids at school. It’s amazing the impact a little direction like that can have.