The Influence of Wealth and Race in Four-Year College Attendance


College is increasingly essential for economic and social mobility. Current research devotes significant attention to race and socioeconomic factors in college access. Yet wealth’s role, as differentiated from income, is largely unexplored. Utilizing a nationally representative dataset, this study analyzes the role of wealth among students who attend four-year colleges. The hypothesis that wealth matters through the provision of differential habitus, social capital, and cultural capital that support the college-going process, is tested through the application of a series of binary logistic regressions. The results indicate that while wealthier students are much more likely to attend a four-year college than their less wealthy peers, the influence of wealth is essentially eliminated once we consider academic achievement, habitus, and social and cultural capital. This indicates that wealthier students garner advantages through increased academic preparation and through the characteristics of their upbringing, such as the type of school attended and parental expectations. Furthermore, controlling for wealth causes the disparities in four-year college attendance associated with race to disappear. Notably, Hispanic students are significantly more likely than white students to attend a four-year college in certain specifications, while black and Asian students are not significantly different from white students in any specification.

Su Jin Jez
Publication date: 
November 1, 2008
Publication type: 
Research and Occasional Papers Series (ROPS)
The Influence of Wealth and Race in Four-Year College Attendance by Su Jin Jez. CSHE.18.2008 (November 2008)