Almost two-thirds of Americans believe that children of all racial and ethnic backgrounds have an equal opportunity to succeed, but only 51 percent of those with a four-year college degree say the same, according to the latest College Board/National Journal Next America Poll.
Among whites with a college degree, 52 percent say there is equal opportunity for all children to succeed. In contrast, a full 70 percent of whites without a college degree say the playing field is level. This gap appears among nonwhites, too: About half of nonwhites with a four-year college degree say there is equal opportunity for all children to succeed, compared with 63 percent of nonwhites without a degree.
Americans with incomes greater than $75,000 — who tend to be college graduates — also are less likely than those with incomes under $30,000 a year to say that children of all races and ethnicities have an equal opportunity to succeed, 55 percent to 70 percent, respectively. Sixty-three percent of Americans with yearly incomes between $30,000 and $75,000 said opportunities are equal.
Personal experience may be one explanation for skepticism about equality of opportunity. Those with college degrees and above-average incomes — those who have succeeded — may have a clearer understanding of the impediments they faced and the advantages they enjoyed. Research shows there are many of both: 40 percent of American children born to parents in the top fifth of income remain in the top fifth as adults; 43 percent of children born to the bottom fifth of income remain in the bottom fifth.