…the connection between income and student performance “is no less true in the Age of Obama than it was in the Age of Pericles.” But, he points out, most of the connection is not causal, but due to other factors. He cites a study by Julia Isaacs and Katherine Magnuson (Brookings Institution, 2011), that examines an array of family characteristics – such as race, mother’s and father’s education, single parent or two-parent family, smoking during pregnancy – on school readiness and achievement. The Brookings study finds that the distinctive impact of family income is just 6.4 percent of a standard deviation, generally regarded as a small effect. In addition, Peterson calls attention to earlier research by Susan Mayer, former dean of the Harris School at the University of Chicago, which also found that the direct relationship between family income and education success for children varied between negligible and small.
Responding to Ladd’s claim that the gap in reading achievement between students from families in the lowest and highest income deciles is larger for those born in 2001 than for those born in earlier decades, Peterson points out that the achievement gap between income groups was growing at exactly the same time the federal government was rapidly expanding services to the poor – Medicaid, food stamps, Head Start, housing subsidies, and many other programs.
“A better case can be made that any increase in the achievement gap between high- and low-income groups is more the result of changing family structure than of inadequate medical services or preschool education,” Peterson says. In 1969, 85 percent of children under the age of 18 were living with two married parents; by 2010, that percentage had declined to 65 percent. The median income level of a single-parent family is just over $27,000 (using 1992 dollars), compared to more than $61,000 for a two-parent family; and the risk of dropping out of high school increases from 11 percent to 28 percent if a white student comes from a single-parent family instead of a two-parent family. For blacks, the increment is from 17 percent to 30 percent, and for Hispanics, the risk rises from 25 percent to 49 percent.
That is from Harvard’s Kennedy School, from Paul Peterson. Here is more, and for the pointer I thank Ilya Novak.