The Widening Income
If we do not find ways to reduce the growing inequality in
education outcomes—between the rich and the poor—
schools will no longer be the great equalizer we want them to be.
Sean F. Reardon
Has the academic achievement gap between students from high-income and low-income families changed in the last few
decades? And if so, why?
Historically, low-income students as
a group have performed less well than
high-income students on most measures of academic success—including
standardized test scores, grades, high
school completion rates, and college
enrollment and completion rates.
Countless studies have documented
these disparities and investigated the
many underlying reasons for them. But
no research had systematically investigated whether these income-related
achievement gaps have narrowed or
widened over time.
© RANDY ALLBRITTON/GETTY IMAGES
To answer this question, I conducted a comprehensive study of
the relationship between academic
achievement and family income in the
United States over the last 50 years. I
used data from 12 nationally representative studies that included information
on family income and student performance on a standardized test in math
or reading. Because each of the tests
measured reading and math skills on
a different scale, I standardized all the
test scores and expressed the income
achievement gap in standard deviation
units (Reardon, 2011).