There’s finally research to support what stressed high-school seniors have long believed: The ultra wealthy have a big leg up at top universities.
A Harvard-based group of economists who study inequality, the Opportunity Insights, found children from the richest 1% of families are more than twice as likely to attend “Ivy plus” colleges — the eight Ivy League universities along with MIT, Stanford, Duke, and the University of Chicago — as students with the same SAT or ACT scores but lower family incomes, based on admissions data from 1999 to 2015. Families in the top 1% of earners typically have annual income of around $611,000, the researchers said
At these institutions…
- The richest applicants had the highest nonacademic scores — which combine extracurricular, personality traits, and recommendation letters — especially the students from secular private schools, who were twice as likely to be accepted as public school competitors.
- Children of alumni were more than twice as likely to get in as non-legacy applicants, regardless of family income. But legacy applicants in the top 0.1% were eight times as likely to be admitted compared to average acceptance rates for similarly performing students.
- One in eight elite college attendees from the top 1% were recruited athletes, compared to just one in 20 admits from the bottom 60% of family incomes.
Though the Supreme Court recently barred colleges from using race-based affirmative action, the researchers say elite institutions could comparably boost recall diversity just by dropping this preferential treatment for the 1%, which is mostly white.
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