By Grace Kirkman
It could be said that income inequality is currently the biggest social divider in the United States of America next to racial segregation. Income inequality in American is having a devastating effect on the education of our students. According to Sean Reardon, a sociology professor from Stanford University, the achievement gap between students with income in the top ten percent versus those with income in the bottom ten percent is 30-40% wider among children born in 2001 than those born in 1975, and is now twice as large as the black-white achievement gap.
Public school students living in poorer communities often have less of an opportunity to receive a good education than students living in more wealthy areas. As the income gap between high and low income families has grown over the past fifty years, so has the achievement gap between these two groups. In 2001, the achievement gap stood at thirty to forty percent, which is the widest that the margin ever was during this time period. Schools in poor areas often do not have the funding needed to provide their students with the resources that they need to get a solid, well-rounded education. Things like poor infrastructure, extremely large class sizes, limited access to technology, and no programs available to help struggling students can diminish the quality of one’s education. But on the other hand, a student living in a wealthier community is likely to have access to most if not all of these things. When students are not provided with the resources they need because their school system doesn't have the money to pay for it, they are being robbed of more than just a good education. They are being robbed of the opportunity to build the foundations for a successful life.
A good education and a college degree is the most important tool that one can possess as they head into the workforce. These two things open many doors such as better job opportunities and higher salaries. Not all people choose to go to college, and they can still go on to achieve great things. However, according to the Pew Research Center, people with at least a bachelor's degree had median earnings of $48,000, whereas people who had only completed some college had median earnings of $30,000. Those with only a high school diploma had median earnings of only $28,000. Having a college degree increases one's chances of having financial success. Unfortunately, college is a seemingly unachieveable option for many low-income American families. Even with scholarships and financial aid services, which not all students qualify for, paying for college continues to be a challenge for many.
America will cease to be one of the most powerful countries in the world shortly if the achievement gap between high and low income students continues to increase. The government, schools and universities, and companies big and small need to work together to make sure that a good education is something that every American receives. This education must be given to every student regardless of the economic status of either their family or their communities. An educated citizen is one who has a better chance of having both financial and professional success. When everyone in the United States receives good schooling, then the income inequality gap will shrink as everyone, not just a percentage of the population, are able to have jobs that will provide monetary success.