By Joan Richardson, Editor-In-Chief, Kappan magazine (PDK International)
The older I get, the more I realize how much my early experiences have shaped and continue to shape my life.
How different would my life be if my dad had not decided to complete high school after military service in World War II? How different would my life have been if he had not gone on to college after that? If he had not pulled himself up into the middle class, where would I be today?
Those wonders were answered, at least in part, by a groundbreaking study done by Johns Hopkins University sociologist Karl Alexander. In his new book, The Long Shadow: Family Background, Disadvantaged Urban Youth, and the Transition to Adulthood (Russell Sage Foundation, 2014), Alexander concludes that a child’s fate is largely determined by the family they’re born into.
“A family's resources and the doors they open cast a long shadow over children's life trajectories," he said in an interview published by the university.
In 1982, Alexander and colleagues Doris Entwisle and Linda Olson began tracking 790 Baltimore 1st graders and followed them until they turned 28 or 29 years old ...