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Money and Education

Posted by Kara Miller, Culture Club  June 9, 2011 09:55 AM

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There's been a lot of talk recently about the gap between rich and the poor - or, more precisely, the gap between the rich and everyone else.

The top 20% of Americans now control more than 80% of the country's wealth. And millionaires, whose effective tax rate topped 66% percent in 1945, now pay just over 32% in taxes.

Not surprisingly, the gap continues to grow: 90% of Americans saw their income fall between 2002 and 2008, while income for the wealthiest 1% rose a whopping 30%.

But what do the rich buy with the money they keep - besides summer homes and spiffy cars?

Education, apparently. In a fascinating New York Times article, author Jenny Anderson explains the prevalence of private tutors in New York's wealthiest enclaves. For students at places like Riverdale Country School - where tuition already runs close to $40,000 a year - parents frequently shell out tens of thousands on private subject and SAT instruction.

(One mother even admits to the Times that she spent over $100,000 on tutoring last year.)

No surprise, then, that the best universities are often overrun by the children of the wealthy. How can average low or middle-class students possibly compete with years of science, English, and SAT tutoring? How can a kid in a mediocre high school vie with a girl who breezed through calculus in 10th grade, because she had a Harvard-educated tutor to help her through it?

But wealth doesn't just buy you educational proficiency. As today's Boston Globe article on physical education suggests, money can also buy you health. While 40% of Boston public school students now fall into the overweight or obese categories, the district is strapped for cash, and it's unlikely that every school will be able to offer physical education this fall.

In wealthier public and private schools, certainly, parents ensure that their kids get exercise - whether through phys ed, after-school sports, yoga classes or gymnastics.

Being born to rich parents, it turns out, can help students get a leg up on all sorts of things - from education to health. Where do the advantages end?

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.
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About the author

Kara Miller is an Assistant Professor of English, specializing in journalism, at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. She also serves as a guest panelist on WGBH-TV's “Beat the Press” and contributes to 89.7 FM WGBH (NPR). More »

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