College as the US Class Mobility Stiffler

Higher education is not the class leveler American like to believe it is.

The post-war US built an excellent multi-tiered higher educational system that offered clear pathways for class mobility to the baby boom generation. But this class mobility escalator has stalled, leaving children of working class families still working class, only now they are saddled with crushing higher educational debt.

Graduation Rates

First, class predicts graduation rates.

Chart - College Graduation Gap by Income - NYT - 2018-03-31

Source: NYT 03/26/18.

College Graduate Marriage Rates

Second, marriage rates of college graduates – a prime vehicle for protecting and amplifying class standing — are differentially adverse to working class college graduates of the same elite schools.  Quoting from a Times article:

Marriage rates for young adults just out of college are low across the board. But as people get into their 30s, trends diverge. For example, more than half of Princeton students born into upper-income households in the early 1980s — roughly, the classes of 2002 through 2006 — were married by 2014. They didn’t all marry other Princetonians, of course, but it’s common.

But for Princeton alumni from the lowest-income households — the bottom one-fifth compared with the top one-fifth — the trends are different. Only a third were married by 2014. This pattern holds for other elite colleges and universities. For people born over the five years from 1980 to 1984, the marriage rate for upper-income students who attended Ivy League institutions was 14 percentage points higher than the rate for lower-income students.

Chart - Marriage Rates Select Colleges - NYT - 2018-04-01

See Also

See also this prior blog post on elite education’s stifling of class mobility

Sociologist Pierre Bourdieu referred to education as social capital that can be translated into economic capital.  We see it at work here.

Higher education is not the class leveler that Americans like to believe it is.


Author: Publicis

A citizen of the United States more concerned with how our society works than with the fate of the parties or particular candidates.

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