Monday, February 10, 2014

Scholastic achievement by SES over four decades

This paper (click link below) has data on SAT, HSGPA, level of HS math and science completed, etc. from 1972 to 2004, binned by SES.
Running in Place: Low-Income Students and the Dynamics of Higher Education Stratification

The increasing concentration of wealthy students at highly selective colleges is widely perceived, but few analyses examine the underlying dynamics of higher education stratification over time. To examine these dynamics, the authors build an analysis data set of four cohorts from 1972 to 2004. They find that low-income students have made substantial gains in their academic course achievements since the 1970s. Nonetheless, wealthier students have made even stronger gains in achievement over the same period, in both courses and test scores, ensuring a competitive advantage in the market for selective college admissions. Thus, even if low-income students were “perfectly matched” to institutions consistent with their academic achievements, the stratification order would remain largely unchanged. The authors consider organizational and policy interventions that may reverse these trends.  [ Italics mine ]


nooffensebut said...

SES is a social construct. Research on SES and education usually combine parents' education and income in such a way to emphasize parents' education. However, people generally conflate SES with wealth and income. Parents' income has virtually no effect on SAT scores, independent of parents' education and race. Parents' education has a very large effect on SAT scores, but that could just be a proxy for heritability of test performance or IQ. This study says that "SAT score has the most influence in determining enrollments to highly or most competitive institutions" and that this influence has grown over time. Likewise, I found that the correlation between parents' education and SAT scores has grown over time. This study also mentions that "the predictive validity of SAT scores lies primarily in its ability to serve as a proxy for high school quality rather than predicting a student's individual achievement." This comes from Rothstein 2004, but Sackett 2012 pointed out that "Rothstein did not include measures of SES at the individual students level." Rothstein and the College Board report by Everson and Millsap spoke of high school quality, which was actually a proxy for race. They are trying to politicize the racial gaps on the SAT as evidence of school quality inequality to push us to conclude that increased school funding, especially in minority districts, will solve the issue.

James Hedman said...

"Research on SES and education usually combine parents' education and income in such a way to emphasize parents' education."

I don't see why. The top one-tenth of one-percenters often don't bother with the college rat race and that holds true over generations. Why go to college when you can race yachts, play polo, or go surfing all day? As for the bottom 10 percent, throw money at their schools and you'll just end up with more school administrators.

nooffensebut said...

There is a certain logic to combining "family income" but not "family education," but is having two parents educated to the level of a master's degree instead of just one master's degree between them equivalent to the difference between a family making $100K instead of $50K?

Cornelius said...

"The authors consider organizational and policy interventions that may reverse these trends."


Governments are not willing to fix the problem. They are only willing to throw more money down the hole.

We can significantly improve the outcomes of low SES kids in one generation. Take those kids away from their parents and put them with loving middle-class families. A stronger CPS could go a long way in alleviating poverty.

I grew up in public housing, in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the US. This country abounds with opportunities for poor but ambitious students. Unfortunately, most of those students are held back by their families. The level of neglect you find in many - possibly even most - families at the very lowest income levels is criminal. I got lucky that my father came from a higher strata and my mother grew up hating the projects. They got me away from the projects as soon as possible, a thousand miles away from my other family members. Adjusting to the culture of middle-class white suburbia was difficult, but I turned out far better than my cousins - all of whom have spent time in prison and one who is now a heroine addict. Most smart kids in the projects aren't so lucky, and although those smarts kids are rare, if bleeding hearts and the government really cared about them they would take those kids away from their families.

Richard Seiter said...

Taking kids away from their families is a tough call. Would it be better to try to find a way to help the family as a unit? Presumably if the kids are that capable there is a good chance the parents have some things going for them (even if concealed by various dysfunctionalities). It seems like your experience is a useful model. Is there any way to help others achieve that? If I might ask, were your cousins on both sides or mostly on your mother's? Do you think they could have used the opportunity as well as you did, or was it more a matter of who you were?

Cornelius said...

If we found a way to correct the families, that would be preferable. I should do some more digging in the social science research to see if there any good methods for correcting an entire dysfunctional family.

Besides taking kids away from the dysfunctional members of their families, I don't know how to replicate my experience. Maybe intervention programs that focused on IQ testing at a young age and then paired off high-IQ poor kids with successful high-IQ adults in some kind of elitist big brother program.

My cousins on my father's side are just fine. I have two male cousins on his side and both are currently in their late teens on track for college and professional careers.

The cousin's on my mother's side are a mess. Most of them would not have benefited as much as I did, but one of them is clearly highly intelligent and scored highly on standardized tests (>99%) in elementary school. Both of his parents were and continue to be drug addicts. Both of them have HIV. He is the heroine addict I wrote about before. He has survived this long by conning people. I expect he will eventually be murdered or overdose. He is currently in hiding from some pretty bad people who were dumb enough to lend him money. He is someone who could have benefited from being moved to a foster home at a very young age.

Richard Seiter said...

Thanks for the reply. Your one cousin is a good (negative) example. So sad to see potential like that wasted. In some groups those kids manage to find support in school and/or community groups, but it sounds like that doesn't work in some groups/communities. The elitist big brother idea is intriguing, but sounds like a good way to get beat up every day at school (if my memories of the things bullies key on are at all accurate). I think the best things for people are positive examples and freedom from certain environments (rampant drug addiction being a good example),

I may be more skeptical of foster homes than they warrant. A friend of mine is an attorney (advocate) for kids in CPS like settings. I should ask her opinion sometime. Her work stories often seem depressing so I shy away from talking about them. I just wish there were a way of identifying and helping families who have the will and the ability to improve, but lack the means to get started. It seems like if one could achieve a critical mass of folks like that (one comparison would be poor immigrant communities with a strong work/success ethic) much would be possible.

If you find anything in your family-based support research it would be interesting to hear about it.

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