A major goal of American education is preparation for citizenship. But having youth take on the responsibilities of citizenship is jeopardized by America's high level of income inequality and youth in poverty. Poverty contributes to health and social problems, including increased mental illness, drug use, imprisonment rates, school drop-out rates, teenage birth rates, and also decreased rates of social mobility and childhood wellbeing. These conditions block participation in the activities of citizenship by poor youth and their families, compared to wealthier citizens. Thus, the poor are not well represented in the discussions that affect their economic and social lives. Learning to be a good citizen is not easy in low-income families, where youth are distressed and schools are performing poorly. Reforming the nations' schools and increasing rates of participation in democracy may require addressing issues of income inequality and poverty, rather than most other current efforts.
ASJC Scopus subject areas