How To Cut The Poverty Rate—And How NOT To Close The Racial "Gap"

Nicholas Kristof writes in the New York Times:

Why Let the Rich Hoard All the Toys? 

By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

Yet you gasp: one avaricious little boy is jealously guarding a mountain of toys for himself. A handful of other children are quietly playing with a few toys each, while 90 of the children are looking on forlornly — empty-handed. 

The one greedy boy has hoarded more toys than all those 90 children put together! 

“What’s going on?” you ask. “Let’s learn to share! One child shouldn’t hog everything for himself!” 

The greedy little boy looks at you, indignant. “Do you believe in redistribution?” he asks suspiciously, his lips curling in contempt. “I don’t want to share. This is America!” 

And then he summons his private security firm and has you dragged off the premises. Well, maybe not, but you get the point. 

That kindergarten distribution is precisely what America looks like. ... 

As I see it, the best way to create a more equitable society wouldn’t be Robin Hood-style redistribution, but a focus on inner-city and rural education — including early childhood programs — and job training. That approach would expand opportunity, even up the starting line, and chip away at cycles of poverty.

Wouldn't the most effective ways to reduce the percentage of people in America living in poverty be:

A) Not let in so many poor foreigners?

B) Encourage American poor people to have fewer children, especially not at young ages?

C) Encourage American non-poor people to have more children, especially at younger ages?

Granted, my ideas will take years to work. On the other hand, the government, the schools, the foundations, the universities have all been working on Mr. Kristoff's plan for about a half century now. How's that working out for you?

Meanwhile, Thomas J. Espenshade writes in the NYT:

Moving Beyond Affirmative Action 

By THOMAS J. ESPENSHADE 

ON Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Fisher v. University of Texas, the latest in a long line of conservative assaults on affirmative action that dates to the late 1970s. ... 

To be clear, I believe that race-conscious affirmative action is necessary, and often beneficial — though I am not hopeful that the court will agree. Our study showed that eliminating it would reduce the number of black students by about 60 percent, and the number of Hispanic students by about one-third, at selective private schools. We also showed that there is no substitute policy, including preferences based on socioeconomic class, that would generate as much racial and ethnic diversity as affirmative action, given the large numbers of working-class non-Hispanic whites and Asians in the applicant pool. 


In other words, working class whites are the main losers from race/ethnic preferences, which may explain why it is so out of fashion to complain about it, you loser, you.

... The racial and socioeconomic gap in academic performance is America’s most pressing domestic issue. When they enter kindergarten, black children are about one year behind white children. When they graduate from high school, black teenagers are four years behind white teenagers. 


So, The Gap is relatively small at younger ages, and bigger at older ages. That suggests that the environmental differences in the early years aren't that important, right?

Despite the No Child Left Behind law, the Race to the Top initiative and endless debate over K-12 school reforms — accountability, standards, smaller classes, more effective teachers, better pay, charter schools, extended day, yearlong schools — the performance gaps have persisted, especially at the later ages. 


"Especially at later ages." So, it must be differences in the environment at later ages that matter, right?

If affirmative action is abolished, selective colleges and universities will face a stark choice. They can try to manufacture diversity by giving more weight in admissions to those factors that are sometimes close substitutes for race — for example, having overcome disadvantage in a poor urban neighborhood. Or they can take a far bolder step: putting their endowments and influence behind a comprehensive effort to close the learning gap that starts at birth. Higher education has a responsibility for all of education. The job of those atop the academic pyramid is not over once they’ve enrolled a diverse freshman class. 

We need more research into the impact of factors like diet and nutrition, the amount of time parents talk and read with their kids, exposure to electronic screen time, sleep routines and the way stress outside the home affects family life. But we already know that an expansion of early-childhood education is urgently needed, along with programs, like peer-to-peer mentoring, that help low-income families support their children’s learning. The first few years of life are the most critical ones ...


Huh? I realize that's the conventional wisdom -- we need to take small black children away from their moms for every single waking hour of the day and have them raised by college educated professionals (thus giving their moms more free time to hit the clubs and get knocked up some more) -- but how does it work that the "first few years of life are the most critical ones" except that the effects of Mom not reading Goodnight Moon only show up in a major way a decade later when the child can't handle Algebra?

We need "a comprehensive effort to close the learning gap that starts at birth." But, you might almost think that The Gap starts nine months before birth ...