Education is a gateway for opportunity—a pathway to progress through which young people acquire the skills, knowledge, and experiences to obtain good jobs and prosperous futures. Yet in the U.S., education is highly unequal. On average, students from minority backgrounds, immigrant origins, and economically disadvantaged families leave school earlier, receive fewer degrees and certificates, and exhibit lower academic skills than their more privileged peers. To address these inequalities, we need research that identifies effective responses to the challenges that give rise to unequal opportunities and outcomes.
Recent trends indicate that black-white gaps in high school completion and enrollment have narrowed, but the gap in college completion has grown. Socioeconomic gaps have been steady in some areas, but have gotten worse in others. What lies behind these trends, and what can we do about it? Adam Gamoran takes on these questions and more in this essay, originally published in the Foundation’s 2014 Annual Report.