Children’s Chances for Successful Life Vary Dramatically From State to State
A child born in Virginia is significantly more likely to experience success throughout life than the average child born in the United States, while a child born in New Mexico is likely to face an accumulating series of hurdles both educationally and economically, according to an analysis published by Education Week.
The analysis by the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center is based on the “Chance-for-Success Index,” which tracks state efforts to connect education from preschool through postsecondary education and training.
The index was developed by the EPE Research Center for Quality Counts 2007: From Cradle to Career, Connecting American Education From Birth to Adulthood, produced by Education Week with support from the Pew Center on the States.
The Chance-for-Success Index provides a perspective on the importance of education throughout a person’s lifetime and is based on 13 indicators that highlight whether young children get off to a good start, succeed in elementary and secondary school, and hit key educational and income benchmarks as adults.
Virginia, Connecticut, Minnesota, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire rank at the top of the index, while Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas, Arizona, Louisiana, and New Mexico lag significantly behind the national average in descending order.
The 13 indicators that make up the index capture key performance or attainment outcomes at various stages in a person’s lifetime or are correlated with later success. For example, in the early-childhood years, indicators include the percent of children living in families that earn a decent wage and the percent of children with at least one parent who has a post-secondary degree–factors that research shows have an impact on how well children perform in school.
Virginia, for example, earns the highest Chance-for-Success score. The average child in Virginia starts out ahead of the curve: less likely to live in a low-income family and more likely to have college-educated parents. Those early advantages are amplified during the elementary-through-post-secondary years, when the typical young person enjoys higher achievement and is more likely to finish high school and continue on to college than in other states. Virginia’s well-educated adult population and strong economy offer ample opportunities to realize the returns to schooling as individuals enter the workforce. Similar conditions prevail in other high-ranking states, including Connecticut, Minnesota, and New Jersey.
A near-mirror image of this pattern occurs in the steadily declining trajectories of states such as New Mexico. There, weak school performance is unable to overcome, and may exacerbate, the early sociodemographic disadvantages of poverty, linguistic isolation, and low parental education. Among adults in New Mexico, educational attainment, income, and rates of steady employment all fall significantly below the national average. Other low-ranking states, such as Louisiana, Arizona, and Texas, share many of the same characteristics.
In general, the Index shows that individuals born in the South and the Southwest are least likely to experience success, while those residing in the Northeast and the North Central states are more likely to do so.
The EPE Research Center is the research division of the Bethesda, MD-based nonprofit Editorial Projects in Education. The Research Center conducts annual policy surveys and collects data for the Quality Counts, Diplomas Count, and Technology Counts annual reports and the Education Counts online database. It also contributes research and data to special reports in Education Week, Teacher Magazine, and edweek.org.
The Pew Center on the States, a division of the Pew Charitable Trusts, identifies critical issues facing states, examines diverse policy approaches, and shines a spotlight on nonpartisan, pragmatic solutions.