Sean F. Reardon has an excellent rundown of the research on the education gap between the rich, middle class, and the poor in Sunday's Times. We all know that kids from poor families have a huge disadvantage when they start school. They begin school behind their peers, and the gap between them and their wealthier peers grows over time.
These findings are sad, but nothing new. What is new is the growing research that finds that rich kids have huge advantages over middle class kids.
The most potent development over the past three decades is that the test scores of children from high-income families have increased very rapidly. Before 1980, affluent students had little advantage over middle-class students in academic performance; most of the socioeconomic disparity in academics was between the middle class and the poor. But the rich now outperform the middle class by as much as the middle class outperform the poor. Just as the incomes of the affluent have grown much more rapidly than those of the middle class over the last few decades, so, too, have most of the gains in educational success accrued to the children of the rich.
Reardon believes that the rich are able to do more with their kids, because they have more money than in the past. The rich are richer, so they are spending more money on tutors and fancy camps. They are also parenting differently.
High-income families are increasingly focusing their resources — their money, time and knowledge of what it takes to be successful in school — on their children’s cognitive development and educational success. They are doing this because educational success is much more important than it used to be, even for the rich.
Are rich parents really parenting differently or are middle class parents under so much economic pressure that they don't have time to parent like they did in the past? I need to poke around in the research a little more, but I am very interested in your impressions.