Educational attainment levels rose rapidly throughout much of the 20th century, with the college completion rate quadrupling for those born between 1915 and 1975. But it has been largely stagnant since.
The slowdown in college attainment levels has been most pronounced for individuals from low-income families. At the same time, the economic benefits of higher education have risen. In 1979, the average college graduate made 38 percent more than the average high school graduate. The comparable figure today is more than 75 percent.
During the last three decades the gap between the educational attainments of children raised in rich and poor families has widened dramatically, and it reveals itself remarkably early in children’s lives.
According to the most recent census report, about one-quarter of children under the age of 6 live in poverty. Recent research shows that early childhood poverty has negative effects on brain development. At the age of 3, children in poverty have smaller vocabularies than their peers and a harder time sorting and organizing information and planning ahead.