The Right Coast

May 29, 2005
David Brooks Updates Karl Marx, Part 2
By Gail Heriot

My fellow Right Coaster points out David Brooks' NYT column for today. (For a link, go to Mike's post below, since when I blog from my antiquated home computer, as I am doing now, I cannot furnish links.) In it, Brooks' Karl Marx alter ago asserts that according to a study by the Educational Testing Service, only 3% of the students at elite colleges and universities are from households in the lowest-income quartile--a figure that he and others find troubling.

But if the ETS study is like the studies that have gone before it on this topic, then the 3% figure is exaggerated (although I've no doubt that a more accurate measure would still show significant disproportionality). Households that are in a plausible position to send a child to college are not by any means a cross-section of American households. For one thing, they all have a child around age 18. The parents, whether they are both present or not, have at least one thing in common: They are not spring chickens. Even the unwed mother who gives birth at age 15 will be 33 by the time her child is old enough for college. The older parents are, the more likely they have their act together, and the more money they are likely to make. As a result, households with children around age 18 are disproportionately from the higher income quartiles. I may be mistaken, but I believe that the effect I'm describing is rather large.