As a follow up to my previous post, anybody interested in income inequality, social mobility and equality of opportunity needs to read this (excerpt, emphasis added):
High-income parents talk with their school-aged children for three hours more per week than low-income parents, according to research by Meredith Phillips of UCLA.They also provide around four-and-a-half extra hours per week of time in novel or stimulating places, such as parks or churches, for their infants and toddlers.
Less-advantaged parents are struggling to make a living and often lack a partner to help them build better lives. Less money typically means more stress, tougher neighborhoods, and fewer choices. This is not to say that there has been a deterioration in parental investment in poorer families. In fact, parents without a high-school diploma spent more than twice as much time each day with their children in the 2000s than they did in the mid-1970s, according to data from the American Heritage Time Use Study, marshaled by Harvard’s Robert Putnam. But parents with at least a bachelor’s degree increased their investment of time more than fourfold over the same period, opening up a gap in time spent with kids, especially in the preschool years...
…To be blunt: If we want a fairer, more equal society, we need more parents to do a better job. And we need to do more to help them do a better job. Helping parents to improve is a legitimate—and perhaps increasingly important—public policy goal….
...Gaps in cognitive ability by income background open up early in life, according to research by Tamara Halle and her colleagues at Child Trends, a non-profit research center focused on children and youth. Children in families with incomes lower than 200 percent of the federal poverty line score, on average, one-fifth of a standard deviation below higher-income children on the standard Bayley Cognitive Assessment at nine months—but more than half a standard deviation below higher-income peers at two years. This is the social science equivalent of the difference between a gully and a valley. These early months are critical for developing skills in language and reasoning—and, of course, months in which parents play the most important role. Closing ability gaps in the first two years of life—pre-pre-K, if you like—means, by definition, closing the parenting gap... Research to date suggests that parenting accounts for around one-third of the gaps in development...
Education is the key to greater prosperity, education is the great leveller, education defines equality of opportunity…but it starts at home and it starts really, really, really early. If this is correct, children from lower income families are effectively handicapped right from the get-go. Need I say more?
[H/T: Timothy Taylor via Mark Thoma]