I was fascinated by this write up in The Atlantic of a recently released update of the infamous “Marshmallow Test” study. The new study, conducted byTyler Watts from New York University and Greg Duncan and Hoanan Quan from University of California Irvine, “finds limited support for the idea that being able to delay gratification leads to better outcomes. Instead, it suggests that the capacity to hold out for a second marshmallow is shaped in large part by a child’s social and economic background—and, in turn, that that background, not the ability to delay gratification, is what’s behind kids’ long-term success.”
This underscores what I learned from the interviews and research that informed When Grit Isn’t Enough. The socioeconomic conditions of students’ families presented significant challenges to post-secondary degree attainment, despite the myths that we, as educators, had constructed around grit. And of course, the original marshmallow test is what told us that in the first place. It’s not enough to believe that money and race don’t matter, that you just have to work harder. that college is for everyone, and that belief itself is enough. We have to build thoughtful systems to support our students to find their educational footing after high school, and that requires that we resist simple solutions and notions. We who work with students need to balance what we know to be true in our observations and interaction with insights from research.