The following commentary written by Professor Richard Murnane and Greg Duncan appeared in the August 6 issue of Education Week.
Changes in the American economy pose enormous challenges for America's public schools and the dream of socioeconomic mobility for low-income families.
By upgrading the skills required by hundreds of middle-class occupations, technology has increased what the nation asks of its schools. At the same time, growing income inequality has affected where families live and how much money they can spend to nurture their children's abilities. These changes have placed great strains on America's decentralized approach to public education, particularly in schools serving large numbers of children from low-income families.
"Growing income inequality has affected where families live and how much money they can spend to nurture their children's abilities."
An obvious advantage of a higher family income is that it enables parents to spend more money on books, computers, high-quality child care, summer camps, music lessons, private schooling, and other enrichment opportunities for their children.
Researchers have reported that, in the early 1970s, the richest 20 percent of families spent about $3,000 more per child per year (in 2012 dollars) on child enrichment than did the poorest 20 percent. By 2006, this gap had nearly tripled, to $8,000 per child per year. This adds up to a $100,000 spending gap over the course of a child's primary and secondary school career—a huge amount.
Continue reading in Education Week.