Surprise! Amid Rising Inequality, One School Gap Is Narrowing

August 28, 2016

By Chris Nickels

Recent studies and government reports continue to highlight what many Americans know by their wallets: Rising income differences, debt and stagnant real wages are among the biggest problems besetting the nation.

That economic inequality is reflected in America's schools, right? Absolutely.

But a study just out shows that the gap in school readiness between rich and poor children entering kindergarten closed significantly — by 10 to 16 percent —from 1998 to 2010. Some ethnic/racial achievement gaps declined as well.

I spoke with the study's lead author, Sean Reardon, a professor of poverty and inequality in education at Stanford University.

Your study's results are kind of surprising given the widening income inequality over the same period, no?

Yeah, actually really quite surprising. Certainly it wasn't the finding we expected when we started the study. We thought because income inequality continued to grow and because achievement gaps had been growing for several decades, we thought we would just see that they had continued to grow but the data say otherwise.