From The Economist magazine (excerpt):
Minding the nurture gap
Social mobility depends on what happens in the first years of life
Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis. By Robert Putnam. Simon & Schuster; 386 pages; $28 and £18.99.
THE most important divide in America today is class, not race, and the place where it matters most is in the home. Conservatives have been banging on about family breakdown for decades. Now one of the nation’s most prominent liberal scholars has joined the chorus.
Robert Putnam is a former dean of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and the author of “Bowling Alone” (2000), an influential work that lamented the decline of social capital in America. In his new book, “Our Kids”, he describes the growing gulf between how the rich and the poor raise their children….
…Among the educated elite the traditional family is thriving: fewer than 10% of births to female college graduates are outside marriage—a figure that is barely higher than it was in 1970. In 2007 among women with just a high-school education, by contrast, 65% of births were non-marital. Race makes a difference…Thus the class divide is growing even as the racial gap is shrinking.
Upbringing affects opportunity. Upper-middle-class homes are not only richer (with two professional incomes) and more stable; they are also more nurturing….
…Educated parents engage in a non-stop Socratic dialogue with their children, helping them to make up their own minds about right and wrong, true and false, wise and foolish. This is exhausting, so it helps to have a reliable spouse with whom to share the burden, not to mention cleaners, nannies and cash for trips to the theatre.
Working-class parents, who have less spare capacity, are more likely to demand that their kids simply obey them. In the short run this saves time; in the long run it prevents the kids from learning to organise their own lives or think for themselves. Poor parenting is thus a barrier to social mobility, and is becoming more so as the world grows more complex and the rewards for superior cognitive skills increase….
…At every stage, educated families help their kids in ways that less educated ones do not or cannot. Whereas working-class families have friends who tend to know each other (because they live in the same neighbourhood), professional families have much wider circles. If a problem needs solving or a door needs opening, there is often a friend of a friend (a lawyer, a psychiatrist, an executive) who knows how to do it or whom to ask.
Stunningly, Mr Putnam finds that family background is a better predictor of whether or not a child will graduate from university than 8th-grade test scores. Kids in the richest quarter with low test scores are as likely to make it through college as kids in the poorest quarter with high scores (see chart).
…and another one from the World Economic Forum (excerpt):
Why early childhood care is so important
From the emergence of the Islamic State to Russian expansionism and China’s rise, there is no shortage of national-security challenges facing the United States. But, as a new report – Worthy Work, STILL Unlivable Wages – demonstrates, nothing poses a more potent threat to America’s future than the failure to provide adequate care and education to children under the age of five.
If young children do not receive high-quality care from educated professionals who understand how to stimulate and shape brain development, the next generation of Americans will suffer from an ever-widening achievement gap relative to their counterparts in other advanced countries and emerging competitors....
...This is a grave error. Early childhood care can shape a person’s lifelong capacity for learning, emotional resilience, confidence, and independence. In fact, providing high-quality care that engages and instructs children in their first five years of life has a greater impact on their development than any other intervention over the course of their lifetime.
This is not new information. The book Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development, published more than a decade ago by the National Academy of Sciences, begins by acknowledging that, from conception to the first day of kindergarten, the pace of development exceeds “that of any subsequent stage of life.” That development “is shaped by a dynamic and continuous interaction between biology and experience.”
This observation is now backed by neuroscience, which has identified how the brain develops over that period and has created a system for measuring learning gaps. Such research has confirmed that building the brain is just as important as feeding the body to produce healthy, intelligent, productive, and resilient adults.
A recent study tallied the results of the Carolina Abecedarian Project, a North Carolina social experiment that began in the early 1970s. The study compared two sets of disadvantaged children, with one set receiving excellent nutrition and high-quality, stimulating care for eight hours a day from birth to age five, and the other receiving ordinary formula and care. Four decades later, the adults who had received better care were not only physically healthier; they were more than four times likelier to have a college degree....
Some people are calling for the expansion of tertiary education. This is the wrong emphasis, putting form over substance. As some of my academic acquaintances put it: garbage in, garbage out. Real success at tertiary education (and hence lifetime income) starts from very, very young – literally beginning from the day you’re born.
Just take this quote from the Economist article above:
“Stunningly, Mr Putnam finds that family background is a better predictor of whether or not a child will graduate from university than 8th-grade test scores.”
There’s nothing “stunning” about this – the research has been showing this for decades. Family income comes first, then the education level of the mother. That’s why pure meritocracy is ultimately self defeating – given the importance of family background in child development, meritocracy eventually degenerates into an aristocracy of the elite, where the advantages of the rich perpetuate themselves ad infinitum.