RSF Authors Greg Duncan and Richard Murnane: Poverty Hurts Urban Schools

Rohan Mascarenhas,Russell Sage Foundation
October 6, 2011

Greg Duncan and Richard Murnane, editors of the RSF volume Whither Opportunity?, published an essay in today’s Chicago Tribune. The piece challenges the notion that student achievement can be improved primarily through changes in school policies like teacher merit pay or more accountability:

Implicit in these very different proposals is the assumption that urban schools are failing because they are run badly, and that the solution lies in improving their management. Over the last five years, we have been involved in a wide-ranging research project that provides compelling evidence to the contrary. Our findings show that the root of the problems facing urban schools can be found in gradual but extremely powerful changes in the nation's economy — not the least of which is the increasingly unequal distribution of family incomes. Policies that address the consequences of these changes, which recent poverty figures show have worsened, are more likely to improve the life chances of the children from low-income families.

Read the full op-ed here. For more analysis on the relationship between income inequality and educational opportunity, buy a copy of Whither Opportunity? Rising Inequality, Schools and Children's Life Chances.


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