Different Schools, Different Neighborhoods
Part of the difference in educational outcomes likely stems from the different environments black and white children live in during their school years. Black children are far more likely to live in households that are low-income, extremely poor, food-insecure, or receiving longterm welfare support. Black children are less likely than white or Hispanic children to live in households where at least one parent has secure employment, and black children have the greatest rate of any race for families with children living in homeless shelters. Nearly 25 percent of black parents report their children live in unsafe neighborhoods, compared with 7 percent of white parents.
Black children are also more likely to have emotionally traumatic experiences impacting their childhood, such as abuse or neglect, the death of a parent or witnessing domestic violence. The child maltreatment rate (which signifies abuse or neglect of a child) was 14.2 per 1,000 black children and 8 per 1,000 for white children. More black high school students say they have been raped. Black youth at all age levels are more likely to be victims of violent crimes.
When a child doesn’t know where her next meal is coming from, when she is dealing with the loss of a parent or living in a household rife with substance abuse or neglect, it seems obvious that these home circumstances would impact her ability to concentrate at school. When a child is living in poverty, it’s easy to understand how lack of money for school supplies or lack of Internet or computer access would impede his ability to complete homework.
But it’s more than that. These factors — a mix of race, poverty and family structures — are associated with a plethora of other problems: lower math and reading achievement, behavioral problems, grade retention, obesity, risky sexual behavior, greater risk of illness, greater risk of interpersonal or self-directed violence. The list is endless and the issues continue through adulthood, creating a cycle that proves difficult to escape for many. For those that do, however, disparities don’t end with college enrollment.