Fascinating report on income inequality and higher education in Massachusetts. Basically, the more wealthy your family of origin, the more likely you are to graduate college, and the more likely you are to become wealthy. The gap in income level and educational attainment are correlated, and rising:
In the bottom fifth of Massachusetts households, the average income dropped 9 percent in the past 20 years to $12,000. They fared worse despite a sizable gain in educational attainment: The share of people 25 and older in the group with a bachelor’s degree rose to 18.5 percent from 11 percent.
The same thing happened to the middle fifth. Their average income slipped 2 percent to $63,000. The share of adults with a bachelor’s rose to 43 percent from 29 percent.
But the top fifth saw their average income leap 17 percent, to $217,000, as their education levels soared far higher. Three-quarters had a bachelor’s, up from half. Fully 50 percent had a post-graduate degree, up from a quarter.
There’s also a marriage gap:
At the bottom fifth, the number of single-parent families has risen 15 percent since 1990. Those parents have lower incomes and less time to devote to their children’s schooling. In a pattern echoed nationwide, 70 percent of Massachusetts families with children in the bottom fifth are headed by a single parent – compared with 7 percent in the top fifth.
“All the evidence shows that children born to two highly educated, high-income people tend to obtain the highest level of academic achievement,” said Sum. “At the bottom, where the mom is not that well-educated and tends to have lower income, children tend to do worse.”
And here’s a punch in the gut:
Americans are now less likely to move to a higher economic class in their lifetime than Western Europeans or Canadians, according to a number of recent studies.
This is also a political issue, as we saw in the last presidential election. Those who convince middle and lower income Americans that they can restore economic mobility, and address the role of educational attainment (more affordable college or non-college career preparation options?), will win elections for the foreseeable future.