Sunday, February 24, 2008

Higher Education Gap and Economic Mobility

The story below is from the NYT so it takes a bit of unspinning but, if you just look at the facts reported and ignore the pontifications, it would seem that the declining influence of affirmative action has meant that fewer blacks are going to college and more whites are. Not exactly a surprise.

It is also not a surprise to hear that the children of blacks who have got into good jobs with the help of affirmative action are falling back down the income scale -- to about where their innate ability places them -- more evidence that IQ really is hereditary. An artificially affluent environment did not help the children concerned

Economic mobility, the chance that children of the poor or middle class will climb up the income ladder, has not changed significantly over the last three decades, a study being released on Wednesday says.

The authors of the study, by scholars at the Brookings Institution in Washington and sponsored by the Pew Charitable Trusts, warned that widening gaps in higher education between rich and poor, whites and minorities, could soon lead to a downturn in opportunities for the poorest families.

The researchers found that Hispanic and black Americans were falling behind whites and Asians in earning college degrees, making it harder for them to enter the middle class or higher. "A growing difference in education levels between income and racial groups, especially in college degrees, implies that mobility will be lower in the future than it is today," said Ron Haskins, a former Republican official and welfare expert who wrote the education section of the report.

There is some good news. The study highlights the powerful role that college can have in helping people change their station in life. Someone born into a family in the lowest fifth of earners who graduates from college has a 19 percent chance of joining the highest fifth of earners in adulthood and a 62 percent chance of joining the middle class or better.

In recent years, 11 percent of children from the poorest families have earned college degrees, compared with 53 percent of children from the top fifth. "The American dream of opportunity is alive, but frayed," said Isabel Sawhill, another author of the report, "Getting Ahead or Losing Ground: Mobility in America." The report is at "It's still alive for immigrants but badly tattered for African-Americans," said Ms. Sawhill, an economist and a budget official in the Clinton administration. "It's more alive for people in the middle class than for people at the very bottom."

The report and planned studies constitute the most comprehensive effort to examine intergenerational mobility, said John E. Morton of the Pew Trusts, who is managing the project. It draws heavily on a federally supported survey by the University of Michigan that has followed thousands of families since the late 1960s.

A chapter of the report released last fall found startling evidence that a majority of black children born to middle-class parents grew up to have lower incomes and that nearly half of middle-class black children fell into the bottom fifth in adulthood, compared with 16 percent of middle-class white children.

The Pew-sponsored studies are continuing with the involvement of research organizations and scholars. Another report expected in the spring by the more conservative Heritage Foundation will focus on explanations for the trends described in the current report.

Stuart Butler, vice president for economic studies at the Heritage Foundation, said, "It does seem in America now that for people at very bottom it's more difficult to move up than we might have thought or might have been true in the past."

Mr. Butler said experts were likely to disagree about the reasons and, hence, on policies to improve mobility. Conservative scholars are more apt to fault cultural norms and the breakdown of families while liberals put more emphasis on the changing structure of the economy and the need for government to provide safety nets and aid for poor families.

"We may well have an economy that rewards certain traits that are typically passed on from parents to children, the importance of education, optimism, a propensity to work hard, entrepreneurship and so on," he said. To the extent that the economy rewards those traits, he added, "you'd expect the incomes of children to track more with that of their parents."

The small fraction of poor children who earn college degrees are likely to rise well above their parents' status, the study showed.

More than half the children born to upper-income parents, those in the top fifth, who finish college remain in that top group. Nearly one in four remains in the top fifth even without completing college.

Evidence from model programs shows that early childhood education can have lasting benefits, Mr. Haskins said, although the Head Start program is too uneven to produce widespread gains.

In addition, he said, studies show that many poor but bright children do not receive good advice about applying for college and scholarships, or do not receive help after starting college. "If we did more to help them complete college," Mr. Haskins said, "there's no question it would improve mobility."


Black crook keeps her teaching job at Columbia

Appoint a dummy because she is black and have low expectations ever after, I guess

Robert notes that Madonna Constantine, the Columbia professor who claimed a noose was left on her door a few months ago, has been has been found guilty of plagiarizing the work of two students and another professor - in no less than two dozen cases. Sure, college administrators say Constantine has been punished, but they delicately refuse to specify how. They also make clear that, because she is tenured, she will keep her job.

The case in question involves more than a mere gaffe or slip of the memory. Serial plagiarism is word piracy and cheating, and it should disqualify professors from the high tasks of teaching on campuses and mentoring students.

Whatever sanctions Columbia has placed on Constantine, they do not fit the crime. Neither tenure nor the cowardice of administrators should be allowed to shield academics who steal the thoughts and words of others. Constantine should be fired, and students and the public have a right to be informed that they no longer need be concerned about such untrustworthy professors. As Tracy Juliao, one of the students who cooperated in Constantine's investigation, rightly stated, "You go in as a student thinking you should be able to trust your faculty."

Source. See also here

Muslim sexual hangups on campus

Amir Mertaban vividly recalls sitting at his university's recruitment table for the Muslim Students Association a few years ago when an attractive undergraduate flounced up in a decidedly un-Islamic miniskirt, saying "Salamu aleykum," or "Peace be upon you," a standard Arabic greeting, and asked to sign up.

Mr. Mertaban also recalls that his fellow recruiter surveyed the young woman with disdain, arguing later that she should not be admitted because her skirt clearly signaled that she would corrupt the Islamic values of the other members. "I knew that brother, I knew him very well; he used to smoke weed on a regular basis," said Mr. Mertaban, now 25, who was president of the Muslim student group at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, from 2003 to 2005. Pointing out the hypocrisy, Mr. Mertaban won the argument that the group could no longer reject potential members based on rigid standards of Islamic practice.

The intense debate over whether organizations for Muslim students should be inclusive or strict is playing out on college campuses across the United States, where there are now more than 200 Muslim Students Association chapters. Gender issues, specifically the extent to which men and women should mingle, are the most fraught topic as Muslim students wrestle with the yawning gap between American college traditions and those of Islam. "There is this constant tension between becoming a mainstream student organization versus appealing to students who have a more conservative or stricter interpretation of Islam," said Hadia Mubarak, the first woman to serve as president of the national association, from 2004 to 2005.

Each chapter enjoys relative autonomy in setting its rules. Broadly, those at private colleges tend to be more liberal because they draw from a more geographically dispersed population, and the smaller numbers prompt Muslim students to play down their differences. Chapters at state colleges, on the other hand, often pull from the community, attracting students from conservative families who do not want their children too far afield.

At Yale, for example, Sunnis and Shiites mix easily and male and female students shocked parents in the audience by kissing during the annual awards ceremony. Contrast that with the University of California, Irvine, which has the reputation for being the most conservative chapter in the country, its president saying that to an outsider its ranks of bearded young men and veiled women might come across as "way Muslim" or even extremist.

But arguments erupt virtually everywhere. At the University of California, Davis, last year, in their effort to make the Muslim association more "cool," board members organized a large alcohol-free barbecue. Men and women ate separately, but mingled in a mock jail for a charity drive. The next day the chapter president, Khalida Fazel, said she fielded complaints that unmarried men and women were physically bumping into one other. Ms. Fazel now calls the event a mistake.

At George Washington University, a dodge ball game pitting men against women after Friday prayers drew such protests from Muslim alumni and a few members that the board felt compelled to seek a religious ruling stating that Islamic traditions accept such an event.

Members acknowledge that the tone of the Muslim associations often drives away students. Several presidents said that if they thought members were being too lax, guest imams would deliver prayer sermons about the evils of alcohol or premarital sex. Judgment can also come swiftly. Ghayth Adhami, a graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles, recalled how a young student who showed up at a university recruitment meeting in a Budweiser T-shirt faced a few comments about un-Islamic dress. The student never came back.

Some members push against the rigidity. Fatima Hassan, 22, a senior at the Davis campus, organized a coed road trip to Reno, Nev., two hours away, to play the slot machines last Halloween. In Islam, Ms. Hassan concedes, gambling is "really bad," but it was men and women sharing the same car that shocked some fellow association members.

More here

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