“Poor kids who do everything right don’t do much better than rich kids who do everything wrong,” writes Matt O’Brien in the Washington Post‘s Wonkblog.
The chart, based on research by Richard Reeves and Isabel Sawhill, shows that 14 percent of wealthy high school dropouts stay in the top income tier, while 16 percent of low-income college graduates stay in the lowest tier. “These low-income strivers are just as likely to end up in the bottom as these wealthy ne’er-do-wells,” writes O’Brien. “Some meritocracy.”
Rich kids who can go work for the family business — and, in Canada at least, 70 percent of the sons of the top 1 percent do just that — or inherit the family estate don’t need a high school diploma to get ahead. It’s an extreme example of what economists call “opportunity hoarding.” That includes everything from legacy college admissions to unpaid internships that let affluent parents rig the game a little more in their children’s favor.
By contrast, low-income graduates are more likely to earn a low-value degree from an unselective college or a “diploma mill.” Blacks who earn a “good degree” are more likely to “live in impoverished neighborhoods that keep them disconnected from opportunities,” writes O’Brien.
Downtown College Prep, a San Jose charter that primarily educates low-income and working-class Mexican-Americans, offers career networking to help its graduates find professional jobs once they complete college. (Go ahead: Read the book.)