“Achieving the Dream” and Its Connection to Education and Health

The cover story on the November 14 edition of Time Magazine shed some interesting light on the interconnection of education and upward mobility in the U.S. The Time news stories underscore precisely why LACEF’s mission to interconnect education with health is vitally important.
Can You Still Move Up in America?” by Rana Foroohar and an accompanying article “Whatever Happened to Upward Mobility?” paint a bleak picture of persons who don’t get a good start in education from their earliest age and fail to succeed in school past college age.

The Time articles issue a blunt assessment: Americans have experienced absolute upward mobility gains over previous generations, but U.S. residents have fallen dramatically behind in relative mobility in comparison to people of other nations. According to Brookings Institution research, and studies by the Pew’s Economic Mobility Project and Opportunity Nation, several European nations are doing far better than we are in the U.S. as it relates to an individual’s economic mobility. The reports note that many of these foreign nations lack the U.S.’s population diversity, a factor that can boost inequality.

The article also compares a person’s likelihood of advancing or “achieving the dream” to their access to education and health, or the lack of access to one or both. As we have made advances in technology, middle-income jobs have decreased. The idea to combat this shift is to improve education to slow or halt our upward mobility downward slide. In other words, when access to education improves and technological achievement advances, more jobs will be created. The Time article also cites personal medical crises as a reason one-third of the population is in a cycle of poverty. The magazine cites research that finds that a person’s general health status has a big impact on upward mobility.
Time used a “Mobility Matrix” to show the likelihood of an individual reaching the middle class (annual income 300-percent of poverty level), though the moving up is strongly influenced by a mix of factors: race, geography, health and education. The research concludes that if a person succeeds at life stages from early childhood to adulthood, then that person has an 85-percent chance of reaching middle class status.

Take away one or more of the above achievements, and you can imagine that a person’s upward mobility percentage starts to drop significantly.

This is where LACEF enters the picture. We believe there are influences that must occur on the front end of a person’s life to enable them to achieve success later in life as a working adult. Our Stay Well Learn Well® School Health Centers Initiative focuses on supporting school health clinics in Los Angeles County through funding and advocacy. Education budget cuts have slashed causing a deep drop in school nurse and preventive health programs at schools in Los Angeles County. School health centers are needed now more than ever with rising costs of healthcare and an over-burdened hospital and health clinic system.

Active, fit and healthy teens perform better in school and record better classroom attendance that leads to better grades and higher test scores. Healthy children stay in school longer and graduate from high school. LACEF’s vision is that all primary and secondary students must have access to high-quality preventive and primary health care services close to where they live. LACEF is promoting health partnerships that will lead to the launch of new school health centers that deliver quality care to eliminate learning barriers at neighborhood schools.

America was once the leader in education and job creation. Foreign nations now claim those titles. If access to education and health is not provided early on, our nation will pay the price with higher drop-out rates, teen pregnancies, youths incarcerated in the juvenile justice system, and disaffected youth in general. Our initiative focuses on giving young people the skills to become productive citizens so they may help our country regain competitiveness and improve our society overall.

Dawn D. Turner
Chief Operating Officer, LACEF