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  • Writer's pictureDavid Deming

Diversifying Society’s Leaders? The Determinants and Causal Effects of College Admissions

Ivy covered brick building with arched window

"Legacy applicants from Top 1% Families are 5 times more likely to be admitted to Ivy-Plus colleges than peers with comparable credentials."

New research Diversifying Society’s Leaders? The Determinants and Consequences of Admission to Highly Selective Colleges by Raj Chetty, David Deming, and John Friedman, posits that highly selective private colleges in America could significantly increase socioeconomic diversity among the country’s leaders by changing their admissions practices. Here are their key findings:

• Ivy-Plus colleges are more than twice as likely to admit a student from a high-income family as compared to low- or middle-income families with comparable SAT/ ACT scores.

• Higher admission rates for students from high-income families can be attributed to three factors: preferences for children of alumni (legacies), higher non-academic ratings, and athletic recruitment.

• The three factors underlying the high-income admissions advantage are not associated with better post-college outcomes; in contrast, SAT/ACT scores and academic ratings are highly predictive of post-college success.

• Attending an Ivy-Plus instead of a state flagship college triples students' chances of obtaining jobs at prestigious firms and substantially increases their chances of earning in the top 1%.

Read the full report and non-technical summary at Opportunity Insights.

Read coverage of this research in the New York Times.

For discussion on the research above, David Deming has launched Forked Lightning on Substack. The newsletter will focus on news and opinion on topics in education, economics, and the future of work.


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