Mobility Report Cards: The Role of Colleges in Intergenerational Mobility

99 Pages Posted: 25 Jul 2017

See all articles by Raj Chetty

Raj Chetty

Harvard University

John Friedman

Brown University

Emmanuel Saez

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Nick Turner

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System

Danny Yagan

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Economics

Date Written: July 2017

Abstract

We characterize intergenerational income mobility at each college in the United States using data for over 30 million college students from 1999-2013. We document four results. First, access to colleges varies greatly by parent income. For example, children whose parents are in the top 1% of the income distribution are 77 times more likely to attend an Ivy League college than those whose parents are in the bottom income quintile. Second, children from low- and high-income families have similar earnings outcomes conditional on the college they attend, indicating that low-income students are not mismatched at selective colleges. Third, rates of upward mobility – the fraction of students who come from families in the bottom income quintile and reach the top quintile – differ substantially across colleges because low-income access varies significantly across colleges with similar earnings outcomes. Rates of bottom-to-top quintile mobility are highest at certain mid-tier public universities, such as the City University of New York and California State colleges. Rates of upper-tail (bottom quintile to top 1%) mobility are highest at elite colleges, such as Ivy League universities. Fourth, the fraction of students from low-income families did not change substantially between 2000-2011 at elite private colleges, but fell sharply at colleges with the highest rates of bottom-to-top-quintile mobility. Although our descriptive analysis does not identify colleges' causal effects on students' outcomes, the publicly available statistics constructed here highlight colleges that deserve further study as potential engines of upward mobility.

Suggested Citation

Chetty, Raj and Friedman, John and Saez, Emmanuel and Turner, Nick and Yagan, Danny, Mobility Report Cards: The Role of Colleges in Intergenerational Mobility (July 2017). NBER Working Paper No. w23618, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3007490

Raj Chetty (Contact Author)

Harvard University ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

John Friedman

Brown University ( email )

Box 1860
Providence, RI 02912
United States

Emmanuel Saez

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Economics ( email )

549 Evans Hall #3880
Berkeley, CA 94720-3880
United States
510-642-4631 (Phone)
510-642-6615 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Nick Turner

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System ( email )

20th Street and Constitution Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20551
United States

Danny Yagan

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Economics ( email )

549 Evans Hall #3880
Berkeley, CA 94720-3880
United States

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