Week 1: Introduction and Research

Mar 12, 2021

Hello everyone! I’m Neel and my senior project is on social mobility and how colleges play a role in moving disadvantaged students up the income distribution.

You may have heard about the “American Dream”, the idea that anyone can make it to the top regardless of their situation. But as of recently, the numbers show that the American Dream is really just a dream, and not the reality that it once was. According to the Social Mobility Report 2020 by the World Economic Forum, the U.S. ranks 27th in social mobility, despite it being one of the biggest economies in the world. After seeing how my family members leveraged education to reach the top, I wondered about how universities fostered mobility in America. It turns out that colleges and other higher education institutes are not making it any better.

I spent the past week studying the work of Harvard economist Raj Chetty, who created a tool for tracking a college’s social mobility. He says that a college’s social mobility is equal to the access rate (% of students from the bottom 20%) * success rate (% of students who move up from the bottom 20% to top 20%). For perspective, Harvard has a social mobility of 1.8%. Cal State LA has the highest social mobility at 9.9%.

As I mentioned in my abstract, I would be focusing on the access rates because that is an area that is easier to improve considering the resources available to me. Professor Chetty’s work showed that for the class of 2013, a little over 11% of students at elite universities were from the top 1%, but only around 8.5% of students at elite universities were from the bottom 40%. I learned that there are many factors contributing to low access rates, which include income inequality, social inequality, poor educational systems, psychological barriers, and more. Segregation within communities, lack of resources within disadvantaged communities, and a lack of information about colleges all play factors in low access rates.

I will continue to do research next week and learn about the other aspects of mobility, such as urban studies, finance, sociology, etc. See you next week!




4 Replies to “Week 1: Introduction and Research”

  1. Karan M. says:

    It seems like you already have a pretty concrete understanding of the topic at hand! You talk a lot about social mobility within an academic sense. Are there certain college majors/degrees that have more social mobility than others? I would love to hear a little bit about that in your next post.

    1. Neel D. says:

      As far as mobility, I’m not sure about that. However, there are certain majors that pay more such as computer science, engineering, finance, which could translate to high success rates. But thanks for the question, I will try to give an in-depth answer in my next post!

  2. Eric M. says:

    An interesting study on society! I’ve wondered these questions myself, so I look forward to what you find!

  3. Mr. Loomis says:

    I’m looking forward to reading what you discover, too!

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