Winners and Losers

Universities and the Pursuit of the American Dream

Jorge Klor de Alva and Cody Christensen

Higher education continues to be an important driver of upward mobility. Over half of low-income students who enrolled at public and nonprofit universities moved up to one of the highest two income quintiles by the time they reached their early 30s.

But not all postsecondary institutions, even those sharing similar characteristics, deliver an education that puts students on an upward path. Consequently, it is important for students and their families to understand the variation among colleges in the rates at which students go on to climb the income ladder.

This research shines a light on this key question by studying the economic mobility of more than one million former undergraduate students who are now in their late 20s or early 30s and attended one of 1,100 four-year colleges in the early 2000s.


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