Inquiry Magazine Northwestern School of Education and Social Policy

FALL 2010

In this issue: Overcoming Social Disparities


Mesmin Destin Photo by Steve Drey

Assistant professor Mesmin Destin, one of several faculty members who study social disparities in education, researches motivation for lower socioeconomic students to attend college.

Penelope Peterson

Dear Friends,

All of us have been affected by the recent downturn in our economy. However, children and youth in our country have been particularly adversely affected. In its annual report on child well-being published in June 2010, the Foundation for Child Development concluded, "The Great Recession has been particularly hard on children and youth, as state and local government budgets continue to be cut, resulting in significant reductions in educational, health, and other programs that support children and youth, particularly those at risk. Today children under 18 are the single largest group in America living in poverty."

The term "social disparities" refers to the idea that different groups have unequal shares of society's resources and benefits. We are particularly concerned when children as a group are growing up in poverty and, as a result, have access to poorer educational opportunities and lower quality health services and resources than those growing up in wealthier families and households.

In this "back-to-school" issue of Inquiry, we consider how we might overcome social disparities that currently exist in education as well as in health. In the first two articles that deal with education and health, respectively, we are proud to introduce four new faculty members who join our community this fall and who are conducting cutting-edge research on social disparities. We are delighted to welcome Mesmin Destin, Jon Guryan, Kirabo Jackson and Diane Schanzenbach. In both articles researchers discuss ways of overcoming the impact of poverty on children's education and health.

In the final article, we announce an exciting new program, the "Good Neighbor, Great University" scholarship program that resulted from a task force co-chaired by President Morty Schapiro and me aimed at recruiting to Northwestern those Chicago and Evanston students who are growing up in disadvantaged circumstances but are capable of succeeding at Northwestern. Beginning with next year's freshman class, the program will provide needbased financial aid packages free of "self-help" requirements to any graduate of a high school in Chicago or Evanston who is admitted to Northwestern. Important members of our task force were Rosey Martinez, an undergraduate in our School who is president of Promote 360 and shown on the cover of this month's Inquiry, and Stephanie Arias, one of my honors students this year. Both Rosey and Stephanie themselves graduated from Chicago public high schools. School of Education and Social Policy faculty members Carol Lee and Jim Rosenbaum also served as task force members and contributed their scholarly expertise, drawing on their own research on social disparities and educational access.

Even in the face of a continued economic downturn, students, faculty and staff in our School continue to work to improve the lives of children and youth growing up in poverty. This fall we look forward to welcoming new faculty, undergraduates and graduate students who will join us in this effort!

Sincerely yours,

Penelope Signature
Penelope L. Peterson, Dean