America: Where Zip Code Determines Destiny

To many people, America is the promise land. Equality is preached from the moment we are born. We are told that no matter what our race, religion, or gender is we can achieve the “American Dream”. What people don’t tell you is that the so called “American Dream” is only feasible depending on where you live. – In America you’re zip code determines your destiny.

Half of all renters in the U.S spend more than 30% of their income on housing; and more than a quarter spend 50% (Kaufmann, 2015). To add to the problem, the limited availability of housing that is available is usually located in high poverty, high crime, low opportunity neighborhoods. It’s no secret that the higher income your family makes, the better housing you can afford; better housing equates to better schools. Many people ignorant to the situation may simply say, “public school is free; go to school, get good grades, get a scholarship to college and all your problems will be nonexistent.” Sounds easy right? But if you’re a 12-year-old boy that has to walk thru rival gang territory to get to school you can see how easy the problems may arise. Suddenly walking seven blocks which should be easy is like walking thru a war zone. This is just one example and one problem. Now imagine that besides you having to walk thru WWII, you almost get frostbite trying to walk school because your mom had to choose between feeding you and your siblings, or buying you a winter coat. Suddenly skipping school doesn’t seem like such a bad idea, does it?

So how can we solve the problem? Better jobs? Better teachers? Stop exclusionary zoning of neighborhoods based on race or socioeconomic status? The answer, just like the problem isn’t so clear cut. One thing is certain for sure, we owe it to our kids to figure this problem out. As the wage gap between poor and rich continues to increase, so will the education gap. Where we are born and where we live should not be the “end all or be all”. We must remember that going to school is an American right, not a privilege.


Kaufmann, Greg. (2015, December 17). Why Achieving The American Dream Depends on Your Zip Code. Retrieved from

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