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1. Correlation between poverty and lack of education in the U.S.
2. Correlation between poverty and lack of education elsewhere
Here’s a graph showing the correlation between poverty and lack of education in the 50 states of the U.S.:
Poor people apparently have lower college completion rates, which confirms prior intuition: poor families may not be able to pay the cost of education, or other burdens of poverty such as bad health may make it difficult to complete college.
It’s a vicious circle: poverty makes it harder to get an education, and lack of a good education makes it more likely that you are poor. Unsurprisingly, average income is substantially different for people of different education levels, with high average incomes practically a prerogative for the better educated:
It’s almost a trivial observation, but the circle is really vicious: poor families often can’t offer a good education to their children, who then grow up to be poor, and who then have poor children, etc.
Simple comparisons between children in poor families and children in non-poor families using national datasets indicate that poor children are more likely to do worse on indices of school achievement than non-poor children are. Poor children are twice as likely as non-poor children to have repeated a grade, to have been expelled or suspended from school, or to have dropped out of high school. They are also 1.4 times as likely to be identified as having a learning disability in elementary or high school than their non-poor counterparts. (source)
A study called “The Impact of Family Income on Child Achievement” (by Gordon Dahl and Lance Lochner) measured the consequences of growing up poor for a child’s math and reading achievement: a $1,000 increase in parental income raises math test scores by 2.1 percent and reading test scores by 3.6 percent (source).
Some more data for the U.S. (via Peter Orszag):
Although more and more children from poor families complete college, the gap with better off children is becoming larger:
The same is true for test scores: the gap in test scores between rich and poor American children is roughly 30-40% wider than it was 25 years ago (source).
Poverty reduces education outcomes, and lower education levels exacerbate poverty later in life.
And there is more going on than differences in intelligence. Poor children don’t underachieve because they are less intelligent. Here’s some evidence indicating that students from high-income backgrounds but with low test scores are more likely to obtain a college education than students from low-income backgrounds with high test scores:
The probability that a top-scoring low-income student completes college is about the same as the probability that a low-scoring high-income student does. Hence, other things going on in children’s social environment must explain differences in college completion rates. Perhaps wealthy parents are better at motivating their children, and perhaps the stress of poverty forces poor children out of school.
Here’s another example of the correlation between income and education:
The same is true on country level: poor countries can afford less education than richer countries, and this in turn makes it harder to become a wealthy country.
There’s really no need to say that the poor receive less education and lesser quality education than the rich, and that this puts a heavy burden on the prospects and opportunities of poor children, but the figures below show the extent of the problem:
Here are some data for the U.K.: