One of our most popular, and saddest, posts is about the challenges kids face later on in life if they're born to parents who are living in poverty. The disadvantage begins before a child actually enters the world and starts with a lack of prenatal care. Jennifer Guerra and Dustin Dwyer revisit, "The problem with growing up poor" and how it contributes to further inequality gaps later in life.
The American Dream is an idea that has a long history in this country. For immigrants in the 1800s, America was seen as a land of opportunity, a place where anyone could achieve anything. All that was required was hard work.
There has been a lot of discussion among policymakers in the past few years about how to make the American Dream more of a reality. But at the same time, new research shows that opportunity in America hasn’t changed much in a long, long time.
So, what does that research tell us about the policy of improving opportunity?
In the early 1800s, the newly formed state of Georgia had a lot of new land under its control. The land had been taken mostly from the native Muskogee and Cherokee people, and leaders of the young American state were looking for ways to transfer the land to white settlers. What they ultimately decided on was a series of lotteries.
The forced transfer of property from native people to white settlers was common in America during the 19th century, but the lottery system was not. It meant that basically any white male adult in Georgia, rich or poor, had the same shot at winning a valuable piece of land. And, while the system itself was unjust and just plain wrong on multiple levels, it also set up an ideal research experiment.
If you're a social scientist looking back, what you see in Georgia in the early 1800s isn't just a lottery, it's a randomized controlled trial. And it allows economists to ask a question that's still relevant today: What happens to a family when it suddenly comes into wealth?
I've been planning to do a radio story on empathy for more than a year, but it's never really come together. Now I probably don't have to. This animation from the Royal Society of Arts narrated by Brene Brown breaks down the difference between empathy and sympathy so well, and why it matters.
The only thing this animation doesn't cover that I am curious about, is the connection between empathy and policies around poverty. I talked to researcher Elizabeth Segal, one of the few academics studying this, about the connection.
Every so often we post something in the "whiteboard" category. Named after the modern incarnation of the chalkboard, they're usually meant to help educators work through some of the themes we deal with here at State of Opportunity with their students.
I came across a study today that looked at how a group of very gifted children became "innovators and leaders" as adults. The study, from Vanderbilt University, identified 320 gifted children at the age of 13 using an SAT test. The cutoff score meant that all of the 320 students in the sample represented the top 1 in 10,000 for achievement on that test.
The study's authors followed the kids for 30 years, and (surprise, surprise) the children ended up achieving great things. Most earned at least a Masters degree in college. Forty-four percent earned a PhD. Many held patents. A few wrote novels. Two became vice presidents at Fortune 500 companies. One ended up advising the president.
What do these results tell us? The study's authors say the results show conclusively that gifted kids make for gifted adults. From the study's conclusion:
Young adolescents with profound talent in mathematical and verbal reasoning hold extraordinary potential for enriching society by contributing creative products and competing in global economies.
But, as you might have guessed, I don't think the lessons from this study are quite so simple.
We all know words have meaning. But where I think we can agree we might have to disagree is on the "right" meaning of certain words.
We've noticed the use---perhaps, overuse---of the word resilience in the media. Is resilience something that we say about other people when we feel helpless to do anything about the situation? That certainly seems to be the case as we approach the anniversary of the murder of 20 children and 6 adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut. Children who are victims of natural disasters are the most obvious case for claiming resilience. We even hope for nature's resilience in spite of climate change.
We all know about the American Dream, right? Start out poor, work hard, become rich. But Diana Elliott, with the Pew Charitable Trust's Economic Mobility Project, says there's a wide gulf between The American Dream Idea and The American Dream Reality.
"Many Americans believe that it’s possible to start poor and become wealthy over the course of a lifetime," says Elliott. "But in fact, when we look at the data, we see that just 4% of Americans start at the bottom and make it all the way to the top in that next generation."
So how did that 4% do it? Well, there's no hard and fast rule that says 'have these qualities, will succeed.' But a new Pew study called Moving On Up looked at data from over 700 adults, and it shows that folks who managed to climb up at least one rung on the economic ladder shared these characteristics:
My colleague Steve Carmody reported yesterday on a new study looking at the social factors at play in Michigan's higher-than-average infant mortality rate. This is a topic we've been discussing on State of Opportunity pretty much since the project began, and our own Jennifer Guerra produced an award-winning documentary last year on the racial disparities in infant mortality.
And if you haven't followed this reporting, let me get right to the point of it all: Researchers and public health experts now believe things like poverty and racism are literally killing babies.
It's a strong claim, but it comes from a strong, and growing, body of research. For an overview, you should definitely check out Jennifer's documentary linked above. But if you just want a quick glance at the latest evidence, you can look at the results from the new Michigan Health Equity Status Report released yesterday.
I've been thinking a lot about names lately - what they mean, what they project, what kinds of assumptions people make when they hear a name. So I decided to call up some experts and ask them: what's in a name?