Mention the ever-widening wealth gap in America and chances are most of the focus will be on the grown-ups.
Their 401(k)s were pummelled during the recession, their earnings plummeted, and even a college degree couldn’t guarantee them a job in shaky economic times.
But what about the children?
Under the radar, study after study has shown just how the growing wealth gap could stymie upward mobility for America’s youth. In a telling report by Washington, D.C.-based think tank, The Hamilton Project, a team of researchers uncover economic data that show exactly how income inequality can impact social mobility in America.
“It is too early to say for certain whether the rise in income inequality over the past few decades has caused a fall in social mobility of the poor and those in the middle class,” the authors write. “The first generation of Americans to grow up under this inequality is, on average, in high school—but the early signs are troubling.”
The reality is that it's even tougher for poor children to make up for their parents' lost ground. A child born to parents with income in the lowest quintile is more than 10 times likelier to end up in the lowest quintile than the highest as an adult (43% vs. 4%).
Wealthy or poor, kids have pretty similar cognitive abilities under the age of 1. But by the time they hit kindergarten, children from the highest earning households score twice as well as poor kids on literacy and maths tests.
In addition to being more likely to have two incomes and parents with college degrees, wealthy families also have more money to throw at their kids' needs. They spend seven times more on educational enhancement tools for their children than low-income families ($9,000 per child per year vs. $1,300).
'By age three, children of parents who are professionals have vocabularies that are 50% larger than those of children from working-class families, and 100% larger than those of children whose families receive welfare,' the authors note.'