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.
The College Board/National Journal Next America Poll, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, surveyed 1,272 adults ages 18 and older from Oct. 14-24, in English and Spanish, through landlines and cell phones. It includes oversamples of 245 African-Americans, 229 Hispanics, and 107 Asian-Americans; the poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points for the overall sample, with larger error margins for the subgroups. The poll is one component of National Journal's Next America project, which examines how evolving demography is changing the national agenda.
Last in a five-part series. Click here to download the topline results from the poll and access in your download folder.