Better Colleges Failing to Lure Talented Poor
Most low-income students who have top test scores and grades do not even apply to the nation’s best colleges, according to a new analysis of every high school student who took the SAT in a recent year.
The pattern contributes to widening economic inequality and low levels of mobility in this country, economists say, because college graduates earn so much more on average than nongraduates do. Low-income students who excel in high school often do not graduate from the less selective colleges they attend.
Only 34 percent of high-achieving high school seniors in the bottom fourth of income distribution attended any one of the country’s 238 most selective colleges, according to the analysis, conducted by Caroline M. Hoxby of Stanford and Christopher Avery of Harvard, two longtime education researchers. Among top students in the highest income quartile, that figure was 78 percent.
The findings underscore that elite public and private colleges, despite a stated desire to recruit an economically diverse group of students, have largely failed to do so.
Mr. Leonhardt eventually succumbs to a popular progressive myth that "economic diversity" can serve as a proxy for racial diversity in the event the Supreme Court invalidates affirmative action:
Elite colleges may soon face more pressure to recruit poor and middle-class students, if the Supreme Court restricts race-based affirmative action. A ruling in the case, involving the University of Texas, is expected sometime before late June.
Colleges currently give little or no advantage in the admissions process to low-income students, compared with more affluent students of the same race, other research has found. A broad ruling against the University of Texas affirmative action program could cause colleges to take into account various socioeconomic measures, including income, neighborhood and family composition. Such a step would require an increase in these colleges’ financial aid spending but would help them enroll significant numbers of minority students.
Huh? Bringing in more poor kids on a color blind basis won't be helpful, as the Times editors noted last fall - although there are proportionately more poor black kids, in absolute terms there are many more poor white kids. Of course, that doesn't mean that schools won't pretend to be pursuing economic diversity as a cover for racial preferences.
But there is a second problem, leading us to wonder whether Mr. Leonhardt even read his own article or the underlying study. From the article:
Among high-achieving, low-income students, 6 percent were black, 8 percent Latino, 15 percent Asian-American and 69 percent white, the study found.
That is the pool from which colleges will fish more "minority", i.e., non-Asian minority, students?
Delving into the study we also learn that high achieving blacks and Hispanics are more likely than high achieving whites to (a) live in urban areas with magnet schools, (b) end up applying to better colleges. From Mr. Leonhardt:
Top low-income students in the nation’s 15 largest metropolitan areas do often apply to selective colleges, according to the study, which was based on test scores, self-reported data, and census and other data for the high school class of 2008. But such students from smaller metropolitan areas — like Bridgeport; Memphis; Sacramento; Toledo, Ohio; and Tulsa, Okla. — and rural areas typically do not.
Ms. Hoxby and Mr. Avery, both economists, compared the current approach of colleges to looking under a streetlight for a lost key. The institutions continue to focus their recruiting efforts on a small subset of high schools in cities like Boston, New York and Los Angeles that have strong low-income students.
Top schools are having no trouble finding talented black kids from the NYC magnet schools; it is the bright light shining in rural Kentucy that is getting overlooked, and that light is more likely to be white. I am relying on Steve Sailer and his readers for this:
- For every low-income, high-performing white kid who applies to college like a smart kid, there are 11.7 who apply like poor kids.
- For every low-income, high-performing black kid who applies to college like a smart kid, there are 3.7 who apply like poor kids.
- For every low-income, high-performing Hispanic kid who applies to college like a smart kid, there are 3.2 who apply like poor kids.
- For every low-income, high-performing Asian kid who applies to college like a smart kid, there are 1.5 who apply like poor kids.
So schools could do a better recruiting job with every racial group, but viewed on a color blind basis the white group is clearly under-recruited now.
STRAY THOUGHT: Per Sailer, the study looks at "poor" based on estimated income, without any reference to a parents educational atainment. Consequently, a divorced mom on child support with a college degree can be just as 'poor' as a working class mother from working class parents. That can lead to this sort of result:
Among high achievers, 51% have a parent with a graduate degree, while it looks like about 82% are children of bachelor degree holders.
I have a suspicion that this study, based on income, will be oversold as focusing on class. I am also struggling with this (Leonhardt):
The researchers defined high-achieving students as those very likely to gain admission to a selective college, which translated into roughly the top 4 percent nationwide. Students needed to have at least an A-minus average and a score in the top 10 percent among students who took the SAT or the ACT.
Of these high achievers, 34 percent came from families in the top fourth of earners, 27 percent from the second fourth, 22 percent from the third fourth and 17 percent from the bottom fourth. (The researchers based the income cutoffs on the population of families with a high school senior living at home, with $41,472 being the dividing line for the bottom quartile and $120,776 for the top.)
No regional cost of living or average salary adjustments? A person earning $40,000 per year with a college degree living in Kentucky is not "poor" they way a person with that income living in Manhattan would be.