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.