OK—I’m afraid that title promises more than you’re about to get. But I do think the figure below underscores important relationships between the increase in inequality and diminished opportunities for less advantaged kids, and thus provides intuitive support for the President’s proposal for universal access to pre-school.
The figure shows so-called “enrichment expenditures”—spending by parents on extracurricular activities for their kids including sports, music/art lessons, books, tutoring—for low and high income households with kids from the earlier 1970s, when income was much less concentrated than today, through the 2000s.
Spending on such goods has increased over time for both income groups, an expected result given all the economic growth that’s occurred over these years. But look how much steeper the slope is for the wealthier households. Their enrichment expenditures were four times higher than that of the low-income group in the early 1970s; by the 2000s, their spending was seven times higher.
And these differences evolved over a period when many schools began to offer fewer of these types of enrichments as part of their curricula, essentially shifting the costs from the public to the private sector. But with inequality jamming the income growth of middle and low-income families, too many have parents been able to pick up the slack.
All the more reason to ensure that kids whose parents can’t afford to provide them with the enrichment goods and services they need get some of them through a high-quality pre-school setting.
Source: Whither Opportunity? Fig 1.6, introduction. (BTW, OTE’ers–I strongly recommend this chapter.)