The Privileged Poor by Anthony Abraham Jack
Published by Harvard University Press, 281 pages, $28

When Anthony Abraham Jack went to Amherst College, he wondered, “Where are the other poor black kids?” Now an assistant professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Jack ponders that again in his new book, The Privileged Poor. He interviews kids from an elite college that he amusingly calls “Renowned,” learning about the problems experienced by disadvantaged students.

Some attended private high schools, where they already digested the enormous shocks of being different. He calls this group the Privileged Poor. They’ve seen rich kids with values and styles—sometimes including chauffeurs—that contrast their own experiences of dealing with poverty, crime, illness and education tinged with chaos. Then there’s students coming from public high schools, who Jack dubs the Doubly Disadvantaged. His interviews include black, Latino and white young adults discussing the need to work during school vacation and struggling to eat because the cafeterias are closed—all while earning less and sacrificing time off. Cleaning their classmates’ horrifically dirty dorms highlights their inequality. And their lesser understanding of the importance of connecting with professors outside the classroom has negative academic and career consequences. Many of the students—46 percent of the Doubly Disadvantaged—have an alarming paucity of resources and people who they can reach out to for guidance.

Jack’s well-researched study is matched by his advocacy for adding programs that could help bring these students closer to the already privileged. 

From page 68: Miranda spent most of the conversation uncomfortably deflecting questions about her family. “They assumed my siblings are in school. ‘Where did they go to college? Did they come here too?’ I told them, ‘No; they didn’t go to college. They’re working.’ They’re like, ‘Where do they work?’ I’m trying to cover up the fact that my sister is in prison.

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