When does inequality begin?

Jeff Madrick in a NYR article, Inequality Begins at Birth, writes:

The research is now undeniable. Inequality in America begins at birth, or, for those born to women who are ill during pregnancy or do not have adequate prenatal care, even before. Through no fault of their own, up to one quarter of American children start off well behind, and another quarter live in families that earn only twice the poverty line—about $48,000 a year for a family of four.

The point he is making is that even Bill de Blasio’s proposed universal pre-kindergarten for New York’s children will not be enough. That these children even at 3 or 4 years of age already have too much going against them, and that schooling, any schooling and probably at any age, will not touch the inequality they bring to school with them. Madrick reminds us, if we had forgotten or never knew it, that inequality begins at birth.

But I would say to Jeff, inequality begins well before birth. Not equal, but unequal is what we are by our very nature, and in those circumstances where no two of us are alike the very best we can do is to recognize it, to recognize our differences, not ignore them but build upon them.

Let’s go on having children, even send them to school if that’s the best we can do, but let’s never think that we’re going to make them all alike. We aren’t.

On the other hand, as Jeff Madrick points out, there are things we can do, and should do, for most of the inequalities of which he speaks are not of our nature but they are of our doing. And the best we can do is to stop creating inequalities of circumstances that need not be there,

Armed with the unambiguous findings of twenty-first-century neuroscience, we can no longer just tell children raised poor to study harder and find jobs as they grow up. A nation that needs all its citizens to be productive workers, and that promises a fair and dignified life to all, regardless of race or color, must now turn its attention to its enormous pool of poor children.

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