The New York Times reports on two new studies about the influence of money on education. On a geeky level, I'm thrilled to see data that clicks so well with my anecdotal observations. It also supplements the research summarized here.
The first study by Sabino Kornrich and Frank F. Furstenberg, “Investing in Children: Changes in Parental Spending on Children, 1972–2007,” found that spending on children grew over the past four decades and that it became more unequal. “Our findings also show that investment grew more unequal over the study period: parents near the top of the income distribution spent more in real dollars near the end of the 2000s than in the early 1970s, and the gap in spending between rich and poor grew.”
The rich are spending way more on their children's education than they did in the past. Rich parents are investing more than ever in tutors, after-school enrichment programs, camps, and private schools. The gap between them and their poorer peers grows every day.
But all that enrichment is making kids miserable. The intensive enrichment is coming out of parental anxiety, and the kids pick up those vibes. (I can't tell you how many of Jonahs' peers have serious anxiety problems.)
Research from Suniya S. Luthar, professor of psychology and education at Columbia University’s Teachers College finds that upper-middle class kids are reacting all this enrichment and pressure in unhealthy ways. She found high levels of substance use, depression and anxiety, particularly among the girls. They were more at-risk for these problems than inner-city kids.
Upper middle class kids are feeling the stress of their parents. The anxiety of falling out of the middle class. The backup plans for average middle class kids do not exist any more. There is the perception that there are fewer and fewer winners in this new economy. And kids and parents are freaking out.