Moving on Up?

Higher education has long been described as the gateway to the middle class. Particularly for low-income students, postsecondary education is described as a game changer, even while the exact nature of this relationship remains hard to pin down conclusively. But a groundbreaking new study from Raj Chetty and his research team, Mobility Report Cards: The Role of Colleges in Intergenerational Mobility, offers a major step forward in our understanding of higher education and economic mobility in the United States. This work provides the best available evidence that higher education can help students climb the economic ladder, and it also identifies the specific colleges and universities that are the most successful at giving low-income students a leg up.

At New America, we believe that Chetty's report is a must-read for anyone who studies or cares about socioeconomic diversity on campuses. Even more impressive is the dataset they have built, which shows the economic breakdown of students at individual campuses, as well as the record of each of these institutions in providing social mobility for their students.

To try to bring more attention to this research, densely packed with implications for higher education policy, we ran a 10-part series of blog posts digging deeper into the data. Follow along on twitter using #MovingOnUp.

And stay tuned, as we will be releasing a paper in the fall that includes the posts in this series as well as additional analysis of the Chetty data.

Moving on Up Articles

  • The first post in our series highlights some of the key findings from Chetty and his research team, and makes the case for why this type of work could be a game-changer in higher education. 
  • Our second post explores why access for low-income students is still a problem at top colleges and universities. 
  • Our third post finds the worst of the worst in the Mobility Report Cards--schools that do poorly in mobility and also leave students in debt--and discusses possibilities for better accountability at the intersection of job training and higher education.
  • Our fourth post shows that, when given the opportunity, low-income students are just as likely to succeed as their wealthy peers, even at selective colleges.
  • Our fifth post shows how the Chetty data provides the clearest picture we’ve ever had of the socioeconomic breakdown of individual colleges' student bodies.
  • Our sixth post evaluates why for-profit colleges may appear better in the Mobility Report Cards data than they really are.
  • Our seventh post uses the Chetty data to examine why there are significant gaps in the earnings between men and women who attend the same colleges.
  • Our eighth post  shows that even when low-income students attend private non-profit colleges, they tend to go to the ones with the least resources to help them succeed.
  • Our ninth post explores how the data underlying the findings of the study demonstrate the potential of a unit record data system designed to answer some of students' most important questions.
  • Our tenth and final post, which was guest-written by higher education researcher Kelly Rosinger, explores the implications of the Chetty data for future studies as well as its limitations.