lation. Unfortunately, Latinos are also the least educated of all ethnic groups. Recent years have also seen the increasing dispersion of Latinos, and other immigrants, across the country, such that the population diversity that characterizes California—a state in which there is no ethnic majority—is soon to be replicated across the nation. Thus, as the harbinger of the nation’s future, California’s experiences are worth noting. As the American humorist, Richard Armour, noted,

“So leap with joy, be blithe and gay

Or weep my friends with sorrow

What California is today,

The rest will be tomorrow.”

For this reason, this paper will occasionally return to California as an indicator of future trends for the nation. Certainly one disturbing trend that can be seen in California is the large gap in educational achievement and attainment by ethnicity that exists in the state, and the consequences this has for the economic welfare of California’s citizens. For example, while Latinos represent 28% of the labor force in the state, they earn only 19% of the wage income. The single biggest reason for this discrepancy is the education gap between Latinos and all other workers. Similar to national data, 33% of white wage earners have at least a bachelor’s degree, but only 8% of Latinos are similarly well educated (López et al., 1999). As Latinos form a larger share of the population—by 2020 they are projected to exceed 50%—their level of education will surely affect the structure of the state’s economy. The impact on the nation will undoubtedly follow.


Why do some children do so much more poorly in school than others? Where are the points along the way where these students are lost? Below, I trace the pathways of underrepresented students through school in order to identify the significant points of leakage from the pipeline, and the areas in which there exist often untapped opportunities to change this scenario.

Access to Preschool

Attending center-based preschool is linked to higher emerging literacy scores for both disadvantaged and advantaged children (National Center for Education Statistics, 1995). However, the opportunity to “catch up” to the skills of more advantaged peers is particularly critical for black and Hispanic children who are more than four times as likely as non-Hispanic whites to be raised in

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