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May 2013 | Volume 70 | Number 8
Faces of Poverty
Susan B. Neuman
Economic inequality is real and growing. It can place low-income and high-income children on separate trajectories throughout school.
There is a national ethos among Americans that captures our faith in progress, opportunity, and striving. It's the belief that if you work hard and play by the rules, you can succeed and prosper regardless of your original social status or the circumstances of your birth. This American dream has given hope to people born without privilege, and it's one of the main reasons people have often struggled to come to the United States from around the world.
But many people are now beginning to fear that the American dream is slipping away. Economic inequality is real and growing. Between 1977 and 2007, the income of families at the 99th percentile increased by 90 percent; the income of those at the bottom 20th percentile, by just 7 percent (Duncan & Murnane, 2011). Further, the unemployment rate remains dispiritingly high. Especially among those with a high school education or less, the Great Recession wreaked havoc among working-class families' employment (Carnevale & Rose, 2011).
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