Wealth and education create an intergenerational cycle of inequality. Wealthier families can provide more educational opportunities for their children, allowing them to build wealth for themselves. The digital divide may have emerged as a key reinforcing mechanism of education through wealth and education during the pandemic. The intergenerational transmission of racial wealth inequality most likely occurred rapidly. This article analyzes the link between wealth, reliable internet and electronic device availability, remote learning time, race, and ethnicity.
- Wealth and education already create an intergenerational cycle of inequality.
- COVID-19 pandemic will exacerbate existing racial wealth inequality.
- Remote learning for K–12 students during the pandemic reinforced educational disparities based on race and ethnicity.
Three factors define wealth inequality in the United States (Hoffmann et al., 2020). First, economically vulnerable families, who would benefit the most from the security and access to economic opportunities provided by wealth, frequently have little or no wealth. Second, wealth inequality is passed down through generations. This occurs through direct bequests to children and grandchildren and the ability of wealthy individuals to provide their heirs with increased access to educational enrichment, beneficial social networks, and protection from adverse life events. In this way, wealth inequality is passed down from generation to generation. Third, wealth inequality is highly racialized, with median Black, Latinx, and Native American families having a fraction of the wealth of median Asian and White families.