Although America is the land of opportunity, a Harvard University study contends that may not be the case for every child.
The university's Equity of Opportunity Project said there is a growing gap between the rich and the poor, and the rungs on the ladder to success have grown farther apart for children who want to raise themselves out of poverty.
Data from school systems across the state reveal almost 50 percent of Hoosier schoolchildren get free or reduced-price lunch, a telling fact about the large number of youths who live in poverty in Indiana.
In Northwest Indiana, 80 percent of the children in Gary Community School Corp. receive free or reduced-price lunch; 92.4 percent in School City of East Chicago; 80.3 percent in School City of Hammond; and 54.3 percent in Portage Township Schools.
While it is difficult to climb out of poverty, Bill Stanczykiewicz, president of the Indiana Youth Institute, said the study indicates economic opportunity also depends on the community one is raised in.
Stanczykiewicz said Northwest Indiana is one of the regions that was below the national median in this study.
"It's a really interesting study," Stanczykiewicz said. "The study pointed to six factors that hinder people from climbing out of poverty. The first is segregation, not so much by race but by income. That's not to diminish the importance of race, but segregation by income (is key). It's more difficult to access public services, and it's more difficult to access information."
The study also noted children need to see successful people working and they need to think about goals and the importance of education.
Ways to address poverty issues include increasing access to public services, improving access to information and including mentors in a youngster's life, Stanszykiewicz said.