The Role of College in Socio-Economic Circles

Some high school students painstakingly work to perfect their college applications and essays with the dream of going to the best school possible, for the best life possible. Others may not have to try as hard to achieve that goal. New data shows that the family you are born into has a significant impact on what college you get into and even your earning potential in the future.

If you have a child or grandchild applying for college in the near future, bear in mind these statistics from a study led by Stanford University economist Raj Chetty:

  • Legacy admissions can have a big impact on who gets accepted to college. At Harvard, more than a quarter of students in its most recently admitted class have a relative among alumni.
  • It’s harder for low-income students to build an ideal college resume. Many of the economically challenged have to work part-time jobs and have less time for studying and extracurricular activities than their upper-income peers.
  • Students from the top 5 percent of wealthy families have a 60 percent better chance of reaching the highest echelon of wealth in this country than students from the bottom 5 percent, even when they attend the same prestigious university. This could be due, in part, to their lack of an influential network in the business world.
  • Graduates of second-tier colleges who major in STEM (science, technology and math) subjects are capable of earning, on average, salaries on par with Ivy League graduates.
  • Mid-tier public universities like those in the California State system and the City University of New York have proven most successful at transforming students from the lower 20 percent of income-earners to the top 20 percent.
  • Regardless of family income, Ivy League (and similar) graduates have a roughly equal chance of becoming top 20 percent income earners.


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