Higher Education Expansion, Social Background and College Selectivity in the United States
Drawing on two recent cohorts of baccalaureate degreeholders (1993 and 2000), this paper takes a new look at the factors that influence students’ choice of undergraduate institution in the United States. The two cohorts span a period that was marked by rapid institutional and enrollment growth in U.S. universities. Yet, it remains uncertain whether or not this greater expansion has reduced the effects of social origins on college choices. The findings reveal that educational decisions were indeed influenced by socioeconomic effects. Both parental income and education exhibited strong, positive effects, which remained stable across cohorts. At the same time, students’ abilities also had a significant impact on selectivity decisions. Students who attended private, nonreligious high schools were also more likely to graduate from more selective institutions, while gender effects largely subsided once controlling for academic ability.
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