June 6, 2019

Born to Win, Schooled to Lose

Socioeconomic status and race affect children's life trajectories more than early achievement scores — not least because affluence provides opportunities, safe environments, and material supports that enable low-achieving students to improve their scores, earn a degree, and secure a good entry-level job, a report from Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce finds. Based on data from a handful of studies and surveys, the report, Born to Win, Schooled to Lose (59 pages, PDF), found that kindergartners from the wealthiest quartile of families with below-median math scores still have a 71 percent chance of reaching above-median socioeconomic status, while kindergartners from the poorest quartile of families with above-median test scores have only a 31 percent chance of doing the same. By the time they reach tenth grade, 49 percent of the wealthier children who scored below the median in kindergarten are scoring above the median, and 60 percent go on to obtain college degrees by the age of 25. By contrast, only 37 percent of the poorer children who scored above the median in kindergarten achieve above-median scores in tenth grade, and just 25 percent have earned a college degree by the age of 25. The report also found that among all tenth-graders scoring above median in math, after ten years only 46 percent of the Latinx and 51 percent of African Americans have earned a college degree, compared with 62 percent of white students. Funded by the Annie E. Casey, Bill & Melinda Gates, and Lumina foundations, the report offers policy recommendations for ensuring that all children have a chance to develop into top students and achieve economic security as adults — including increasing access to high-quality pre-K programs, providing academic interventions throughout the K-12 years, improving and expanding high school counseling to better prepare students for postsecondary education, and integrating career exploration and preparation into the advising process.