Similarly, some advantages claimed for the upper middle class are weaker than advertised. Access to the best schools? Sure, but that doesn’t cover all upper-middle-class students. Reeves reports that nearly two-fifths of the richest 20 percent of families live near schools ranked in the top fifth of their states by test scores. But that means that about three-fifths of these wealthier families don’t. It’s also true, as Reeves notes, that the causation works in the other direction: Good students make good schools.
Though economic opportunities abound, the capacity to take advantage of them does not. That, not hoarding, is our real problem. Reeves reports that less than half the students at community colleges “make it through their first year.” Similarly, only 6 out of 10 children raised in top-income families have bachelor’s degrees. If parents are so obsessed with — and controlling of — their children’s fates, why isn’t the share 9 out of 10 or higher?