Wednesday, April 30, 2014

How To Be Rich As Sh*t In America: Step One

1. Be born and raised in the right zip code.

Zip codes determine destiny. Rich kids get good educations, poor kids get poor ones. "This is because a large percentage of funding for public education comes not from the federal government, but from the property taxes collected in each school district," writes sociology professor Lisa Wade at Occidental College. She adds, "Money within New York, is also unequally distributed: $25,505 was spent per student in the richest neighborhoods, compared to $12,861 in the poorest."

Americans aren't all playing by the same set of rules. The higher the concentration of wealthy people in a neighborhood, city, or state, the better the education is in said area (in terms of resources and student/teacher ratios) because of higher property taxes. In contrast, the rest of the developed world - sans outliers Turkey and Israel - invests more equally in each student through centralized federal funding.

“The United States is one of few advanced nations where schools serving better-off children usually have more educational resources than those serving poor students,” writes the New York Times. Such inequities in funding and resources calls into question the widespread belief that America is a place of equal opportunity.

When opportunities for advancement are hampered by circumstances of birth and upbringing we can't speak of achievement gaps in our public schools, only opportunity gaps - and a reinforcement of these gaps until funding priorities shift.

Research on the dropout crisis in the US has shown that America's playing field is about as flat as the world was once thought to be - that is to say, it's time to disabuse ourselves of another fallacy. All sorts of inequalities are baked into our system with the intention of engineering less equal outcomes. The neighborhood you grow up in will have a disproportionate impact on not just the quality of your education, your odds of graduating high school and your future economic opportunities, but your health and lifespan as well.

A meritocracy America isn't.

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