Race, income, and enrollment patterns in highly selective colleges, 1982-2004

A Stanford overview study of race, income, and enrollment.

Study Link: Race, income, and enrollment patterns in highly selective colleges, 1982-2004

Where a student attends college has become increasingly important in the last few decades. As education has grown significantly more important in the labor market, competition among students for access to the most selective colleges and universities has grown as well.

In this brief we examine patterns of enrollment, by race and family income, in the most selective colleges and universities. We also simulate racial and socioeconomic patterns of admission to selective colleges under several types of “race-blind” admissions policies, including policies like the Top Ten Percent admissions policy currently in use in Texas and a similar policy in California.

For the analyses in this study, we rely on data from three national longitudinal studies of students in the high school classes of 1982, 1992, and 2004.

Study: Most School Districts Have Achievement Gaps

NAEP statistical analysis from Stanford study.

Study: Most School Districts Have Achievement Gaps

That five-year period enabled researchers to focus on districts completing a decade of state and federal accountability initiatives designed to close academic gaps between white students and their black and Hispanic peers. Of the 2,500 school districts with a large enough sample of black students to measure their achievement gaps, Reardon and his colleagues found only one with no black-white gap: Detroit.

“Detroit is not the poster child for reducing the achievement gap,” Reardon said in an interview with Education Week. “The achievement gap is zero in Detroit largely because everyone’s doing really poorly, not because black students are doing particularly well.”

Several of the other districts with the lowest achievement gaps have similar profiles of high poverty and multiple attempts at education overhauls, suggesting their low achievement gaps come from lower performance overall.

Moreover, the researchers found some of the biggest black-white achievement gaps in the country—where black students lag their white peers by more than 1.5 full standard deviations, or four to five grade levels on the NAEP scale—in relatively prosperous university towns, including Berkeley, Calif. (home of University of California, Berkeley), and Evanston, Ill. (home of Northwestern University).