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Wed, May

 

 

Harold Levy was confident of the value that elite schools had for low-income students.

“Right now our nation is failing to fully develop the brainpower of some of our brightest students, simply because their families have less money than most other families,” said Levy, executive director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, in a report that argued for expanded educational access.

The “value of attending a selective college or university is clear,” the report stated, “including higher graduation rates and higher pay for the individual.”

But the value of a diploma from Harvard or Yale is actually not all that clear. Plenty of questions remain, including whether an elite education narrows the gap between disenfranchised people and their privileged peers, or perpetuates it.

A paper in the January issue of the American Economic Review says top universities do in fact help their graduates climb to the top of the corporate ladder . . . but only if you’re a wealthy man.

“The inequality by gender and socioeconomic status in these institutions was a striking finding,” author Seth Zimmerman said in an interview with the AEA.

The research offers important insights about economic mobility at a time when there is growing concern about income inequality and diversity — or lack-thereof — in corporate leadership. The paper suggests that it may not be enough to provide access for women and low-income students to well-regarded institutions. There are relationships formed during the college experience that disproportionately benefit wealthy male students in their careers.

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