In this study, the authors estimate the “intergenerational income mobility rate” for every college in the United States, using data taken from the individual tax returns of over 30 million students who attended college between 1999 and 2013.
As defined by the authors, a college’s intergenerational mobility rate is the product of two factors: first, the fraction of enrolled students who come from households in the bottom quintile of the income distribution; and second, the fraction of those students whose subsequent earnings place them in the top income quintile.
In a society with perfect mobility, a child’s background would have no bearing on his or her future earnings, meaning exactly 4 percent of children would move from the bottom quintile to the top quintile (and every other quintile). However, in reality only 1.7 percent of U.S. kids actually manage this feat.
So what role do U.S. colleges play in promoting upward mobility? According to the authors, their analysis of the data yielded four main findings.
First, access to colleges varies greatly by parent income. For example, children whose parents are in the top one percent of the income distribution are seventy-seven times more likely to attend an Ivy League college...