Last week it seemed like the whole world got involved in the royal birth, taking bets on the new prince’s gender, weight, name and arrival time. This betting is all in good fun but it got us thinking about the babies who have the odds stacked against them, even before they enter the world.
Right now Latin American kids have about a 50/50 chance of graduating high school. Children born into poverty are even less likely to make it to graduation day. While over 80% of the wealthiest students in Latin America get their diplomas, only 30% of the poorest students graduate. Most of us wouldn’t be very comfortable with those betting odds.
Since the whole world has gone baby crazy, consider the story of two hypothetical babies, Agustin and Daniel, who were born on the same day (virtually speaking). In this brief three-minute video, we watch Agustin and Daniel grow up:
However it’s only within the first 30 seconds, very shortly after birth, that we start to see how Agustin and Daniel will grow to become different adults based, in part, on their educational opportunities. You see, in terms of family income, Agustin won the birth lottery. He was born into the wealthiest 20% of the population, while Daniel was born into the poorest 20%. As a result, Agustin has greater access to resources and better educational opportunities.
Agustin and Daniel represent millions of children in Latin America. Sadly, one thing that the diverse countries of the region have in common is that no matter where you are in Latin America, poor students are less likely to graduate high school than their peers with more resources.
Although the average years of formal schooling have increased across socioeconomic groups, there is still a SEVEN-year gap in years of education between the richest and poorest segments of the population. That means that by accident of birth, by no choice of his own, Daniel could end up with seven fewer years of education than Agustin. That’s A LOT of schooling. How much did YOU learn between kindergarten and seventh grade? Between your first year of high school and your last year of college?
* Lauren Conn is a consultant in the Education Division at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, DC. She works on an initiative to prevent high school dropouts in Latin America, GRADUATE XXI. Her article was originally published on the graduatexxi.org blog