Educational Inequalities

Holzman, B., Klasik, D., & Baker, R. (2020). "Gaps in the College Application Gauntlet." Research in Higher Education.
Higher education research has often focused on rates of step completion in the postsecondary pathway and their relationship to college enrollment. Instead of concentrating on levels of step completion, this study explicitly examines gaps, specifically race- and income-based differences in college enrollment and the intermediate steps to enrollment. Drawing upon national- and state-representative samples from the High School Longitudinal Study of 2009, the study uses the V-statistic, a novel approach that leverages the full distribution of enrollment and step completion, to compute continuous measures of race- and income-based inequalities comparable across steps, groups, and states. First, the authors demonstrate that gaps based on rates rather than the full distribution of step completion may lead to slightly different conclusions. Second, among the steps they analyze, it appears that gaps in academic qualifications are largest, even larger than gaps in college enrollment itself. Finally, through regression analysis, the authors show that gaps in academic qualifications and gaps in taking a college entrance exam are the strongest predictors of gaps in enrollment selectivity. The authors conclude that policymakers and practitioners interested in closing college enrollment gaps ought to identify interventions that can close gaps, in addition to levels, early in the postsecondary pathway.
Related products: policy brief
Jackson, M., & Holzman, B. (2020). "A Century of Educational Inequality in the United States." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The "income inequality hypothesis" holds that rising income inequality affects the distribution of a wide range of social and economic outcomes. Although it is often alleged that rising income inequality will increase the advantages of the well-off in the competition for college, some researchers have provided descriptive evidence at odds with the income inequality hypothesis. In this paper, we track long-term trends in family income inequalities in college enrollment and completion ("collegiate inequalities") using all available nationally representative datasets for cohorts born between 1908 and 1995. We show that the trends in collegiate inequalities moved in lockstep with the trend in income inequality over the past century. There is one exception to this general finding: For cohorts at risk for serving in the Vietnam War, collegiate inequalities were high, while income inequality was low. During this period, inequality in college enrollment and completion was significantly higher for men than for women, suggesting a bona fide "Vietnam War" effect. Aside from this singular confounding event, a century of evidence establishes a strong association between income and collegiate inequality, providing support for the view that rising income inequality is fundamentally changing the distribution of life chances.
Holzman, B., & Hanson, V. S. (2020). "Summer Melt and Free Application for Federal Student Aid Verification." Houston Education Research Consortium, Rice University.
Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) verification and its role in summer melt is examined in this study. Summer melt is when high school seniors who appear ready to go to college the fall following graduation do not enroll. The study revealed one-third of Houston Independent School District (HISD) college-intending students were flagged for FAFSA verification, and racial and ethnic minorities were especially at risk of verification. The study also found one-in-four college-intending students experienced summer melt and did not attend college by November 1st of the fall semester after completing high school. In line with prior research, FAFSA verification increased the likelihood of summer melt by six percentage points. The study also showed 26 percent of students who experienced summer melt enrolled in college during a later term but still within two years of high school graduation. Students flagged for FAFSA verification were five percentage points more likely to delay their college enrollment than students who were not flagged for verification. Overall, results suggested reducing FAFSA verification and/or providing support to students and families managing the process might be a way to improve college enrollment rates and reduce summer melt. Moreover, some students who experienced summer melt did attend college; they just did so at a later date.
Related product: working paper in progress
Holzman, B., Lewis, B., & Chukhray, I. (2020). "School-to-Work Linkages in Texas." Houston Education Research Consortium, Rice University.
This report examined school-to-work linkages among bachelor’s degree holders in the state of Texas. Linkage is a measure of how closely connected college majors are to specific occupations in the labor market. Studying linkage is useful as the state works toward ensuring students complete postsecondary credentials with marketable skills. The study found linkage positively predicted earnings. Moreover, the earnings benefits from linkage were concentrated among individuals in matched occupations, or individuals employed in jobs common among people with their college major. Finally, the study found linkage negatively predicted unemployment.
Related product: working paper in progress