One of the most vexing problems for U.S. education has been the achievement gap between white and non-white students. In 2011, “black and Hispanic students trailed their white peers by an average of more than 20 test-score points on the NAEP math and reading assessments at 4th and 8th grades, a difference of about two grade levels.”
But new work shows that this perhaps isn’t the most troubling education gap, as the difference between the educational achievement of affluent and low-income students has grown significantly larger than the gap between white students and black students:
[Stanford Professor Sean Reardon] is the author of a study that found that the gap in standardized test scores between affluent and low-income students had grown by about 40 percent since the 1960s, and is now double the testing gap between blacks and whites.
In another study, by researchers from the University of Michigan, the imbalance between rich and poor children in college completion — the single most important predictor of success in the work force — has grown by about 50 percent since the late 1980s.
These studies didn’t even take into account the effects of the Great Recession, which likely exacerbated the gap. “We have moved from a society in the 1950s and 1960s, in which race was more consequential than family income, to one today in which family income appears more determinative of educational success than race,” said Reardon, who found that “the income achievement gap is large when children enter kindergarten and does not appear to grow (or narrow) appreciably as children progress through school.”