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Why Are All the Rich Kids Sitting Together on Campus?

Still think of college as the great equalizer? Think again. Today, income differences are dividing college campuses like never before.

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Or so goes the theory. But in practice something else is true. The class divide continues to yawn across America, and despite legal attacks and changed social norms, education inequality continues to help maintain a class-based status quo. In a voluminous examination of class in America in 2005, The New York Times noted that many Americans prefer to imagine that class distinctions in the land “have blurred” or “some say they have disappeared.” The Times’ findings, however, pointed to the contrary:

But class is still a powerful force in American life. Over the past three decades, it has come to play a greater, not lesser, role in important ways. At a time when education matters more than ever, success in school remains linked tightly to class. At a time when the country is increasingly integrated racially, the rich are isolating themselves more and more.

This seems especially true on our nation’s college campuses, which are the petri dishes of America. Whatever conversations occur in the wider, public discourse are surely more concentrated and intense among the young, sensitive, and idealistic students.


Sam Fulwood III is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and Director of the CAP Leadership Institute. His work with the Center's Progress 2050 project examines the impact of policies on the nation when there will be no clear racial or ethnic majority by the year 2050.

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