There are many pertinent research studies, papers and books that address the growing opportunity gap experienced by children in poverty. This page will list the most salient and informative of these works as they speak to the need for the support of the communities and schools that serve children in poverty as we hope to do through The Jane Ellen Mark Scholarship Fund.

“Our Kids: The Death of the American Dream” by Robert Putnam


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It’s the American dream: get a good education, work hard, buy a house, and achieve prosperity and success. This is the America we believe in—a nation of opportunity, constrained only by ability and effort. But during the last twenty-five years we have seen a disturbing “opportunity gap” emerge. Americans have always believed in equality of opportunity, the idea that all kids, regardless of their family background, should have a decent chance to improve their lot in life. Now, this central tenet of the American dream seems no longer true or at the least, much less true than it was.

Robert Putnam—about whom The Economist said, “his scholarship is wide-ranging, his intelligence luminous, his tone modest, his prose unpretentious and frequently funny”—offers a personal but also authoritative look at this new American crisis. Putnam begins with his high school class of 1959 in Port Clinton, Ohio. By and large the vast majority of those students—“our kids”—went on to lives better than those of their parents. But their children and grandchildren have had harder lives amid diminishing prospects. Putnam tells the tale of lessening opportunity through poignant life stories of rich and poor kids from cities and suburbs across the country, drawing on a formidable body of research done especially for this book.

Our Kids is a rare combination of individual testimony and rigorous evidence. Putnam provides a disturbing account of the American dream that should initiate a deep examination of the future of our country.

Click Here for the CBS interview and article with Robert Putnam –“America’s Next Economic Crisis Is Already Here”  (April 9, 2015)

For the Sake of All: And Why It Matters to Everyone.

For the Sake of All is a multi-disciplinary project on the health and well-being of African Americans in St. Louis. The first phase of the project culminated in May, 2014 with the release of a final report at a community conference. The second phase will focus on engagement of the community, business leaders, and policy makers in order to mobilize support for implementation of recommendations made in the initial phase of the work. The recommendations are 1) investing in quality early childhood development, 2) creating economic opportunities for low-to-moderate income families, 3) investing in coordinated school health, 4) investing in mental health awareness, access, and surveillance, 5) investing in health-promoting neighborhoods, 6) enhance chronic and infectious disease prevention and management.

The Two Lives of Jasmine

2018 Report – Segregation in St. Louis: Dismantling the Divide

Trapped in Poverty

The conditions of racially concentrated areas of poverty in segregated metropolitan areas like St. Louis hamper health and other outcomes and are also implicated in the kind of social mobility that is at the heart of the American Dream. Recent work by economist Raj Chetty and his colleagues has shown a great deal of local variation in the extent to which children who are born into poverty are able to escape it as adults. In groundbreaking, large-scale analyses of national data Chetty has found that the gap between rich and poor has widened, and in some places, it is relatively rare to escape from poverty.

St. Louis is one of those places. It ranks 42nd out of 50 large metro areas when considering the probability that a child born into the lowest 1/5 of the income distribution will reach the top 1/5 in adulthood. And that finding is not restricted to poor African American children but includes all children. Segregation is one of the factors that the study led by Chetty identified as contributing to this local lag in mobility. According to its analysis, areas with greater racial segregation also had less upward mobility.

Click Here to download the 118 page (PDF) report.


What It’s Worth – Strengthening the Financial Future of Families, Communities and the Nation

Americans everywhere struggle to build strong financial futures for themselves and their families. The new book, What It’s Worth, provides a roadmap for what families, communities and our nation can do to move forward on the path to financial well-being.

“Economic insecurity and financial instability plague a growing number of Americans. For more and more of us, working toward the American Dream has been replaced by a daily struggle to make ends meet. This book clarifies the critical link between individual Americans’ financial health and the economic well-being of our nation, and illuminates the path for how to enable all Americans to become financially healthy. The all-star roster of contributors have spent decades working with and thinking about how to make social and financial services better; collectively, their contributions add up to a must read for policymakers, practitioners, and concerned citizens.”

Lisa Servon, Professor, Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy, The New School

Click Here to download a free copy (PDF) of this book.