The Privileged Poor
How Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantaged Students
A student from a low-income background attends an elite university on scholarship, and finds herself burdened by that status. This is the paradox of the privileged poor student, says sociologist and speaker Anthony Jack. Upheaval like this will be addressed when modern institutions revise the policies of subtle, and not-so-subtle, exclusion that harden these divisions between students. In the ongoing dialogue about race, inclusion, and social justice, Jack’s talks provide a firm foundation for that conversation.
Anthony Jack, sociologist and Assistant Professor of Education at Harvard University, is vividly changing the way we address the issue of diversity and inclusion in education. His new book, The Privileged Poor, reframes the conversation surrounding equality—on campuses, in communities, and across America. In it, he explains the paths of two uniquely segregated groups. First, the “privileged poor”: students from low-income, diverse backgrounds who attended elite prep or boarding school before attending college. The second are what Jack calls the “doubly disadvantaged”—students who arrive from underprivileged backgrounds without prep or boarding school to soften their college transition. Although they struggle differently, both groups lack the cultural connections, ease, and funds to fit into a community that, by default, privileges the privileged.
“No matter how much a student knows about Chopin and Beethoven, at the end of the month, they’re still hungry.”— Anthony Jack, on the limits of cultural capital.
Drawing on his landmark research into the sociology of how real poverty intersects with higher education, Jack speaks in revelatory terms about what you and your organization—as an administrator, association organizer, educator, or student activist can do to bridge this education gap. The privileged poor student is “the canary in the coal mine,” he says. But it doesn’t have to end there. Jack’s information can be used to help all students, especially the privileged poor and the doubly disadvantaged, avail themselves of the resources, rights, and privileges that they will apply to their lives after graduation.
Anthony Jack is a junior fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows and assistant professor of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. His research has been cited by The New York Times, the Boston Globe, The Atlantic, The Huffington Post, The National Review, The Washington Post, American RadioWorks, WBUR, and MPR. His book, The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantaged Students, was released by Harvard University Press in 2019.