Ana Barros grew up in a two-family house built by Habitat for Humanity, hard by the boarded-up buildings and vacant lots of Newark. Neither parent attended college, but she was a star student. With a 2200 on her SATs, she expected to fit in at Harvard.
Yet here she was at a lecture for a sociology course called, paradoxically, “Poverty in America,” as a classmate opened her laptop and planned a multicountry spring break trip to Europe. (Ms. Barros can’t afford textbooks; she borrows from the library.) On the sidewalks of Cambridge, students brush past her in their $700 Canada Goose parkas and $1,000 Moncler puffer jackets. (Ms. Barros saved up for two years for good boots.) On an elite campus, income inequality can be in your face.
A professor once described how hardships become inscribed on one’s body, and Ms. Barros thought of her father, a janitor at a home for troubled boys, and the wrinkles carved in his face from worrying about money and her mother’s health. Majoring in sociology, she says, “has made me hyperaware of class differences here.” <Read more.>