Social Class Lesson 4: Education

Social Class Lesson 4: Education
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Education and Social Class

1. What percentage of US adults do you think have a college degree?

Below are the percentages of adults over the age of 23 who have attained each degree in 2018 from Wikipedia:

2. Did you realize that so few people have a bachelor’s degree or higher? Does any of this surprise you?

3. Where does your family fall in terms of educational level? The median American educational level is some college, but no degree. Is the educational level in your family higher or lower and by how much?

Here is a link to census data where you can search by your village to see what the median educational level is in your town. Here is 2020 data for BG, LG and LShire:

Parent Education = Children’s Future Education

Parents’ educational levels correlate with children’s educational attainment. The graph below shows that the less education that parents have, the less education their children obtain. In other words, if parents don’t have a college degree, the child is not likely to attain a college degree and visa-versa; parents with an advanced degree are more likely to have children who attain an advanced degree themselves.

Below is another way of showing the educational level of parents (on the left) influences the level of college education their children get (center) and what social class the children end up in (right)

4. What are some conclusions or questions you have about how parent educational level affects children’s educational probability?

Education = Income

Not only is education level stratified, but the family’s educational level determines, on average what the family’s income will be (on average). In other words, the higher your education is, the more money one is likely to earn. Link to College Board 2016 research report here. The graph below shows how median income goes up for each level of education, even if you factor in income taxes (which also go up):

Here is a 2011 post from sociological images that has a lot of info showing the connection between your degree and your income, especially that more contributing than any other factor, educational levels to lifetime income earnings and the earnings gap gets wider over time.

Here is a graph of mean education compared to mean income from U. Maryland sociology professor Phil Cohen:

So, not only does more education mean more income, the more income means higher scores on standardized tests (which could mean a better education). See the data below. This link shows that on average, the higher a family’s income, the higher the ACT score.

5. What are some of the reasons that higher-income might lead to higher test scores?

Kohn and Lareau

Family shapes people differently based on the social class of the family. Melvin Kohn and Annette Lareau are two of the more noted researchers who studied families and social class. Their research found that parents from working-class households emphasize following rules and discipline while upper-middle-class parents teach their kids to take risks, negotiate, and think creatively. Sociologist Annette Lareau explains these differences in her research. Her book, Unequal Childhoods is explained in the Atlantic here. And there is an excerpt available here.

Lareau identifies these two styles:

Concerted Cultivation: The parenting style, favored by middle-class families, in which parents encourage negotiation and discussion and the questioning of authority, and enroll their children in extensive organized activity participation. This style helps children in middle-class careers, teaches them to question people in authority, develops a large vocabulary, and makes them comfortable in discussions with people of authority. However, it gives the children a sense of entitlement.

Accomplishment of Natural Growth: The parenting style, favored by working-class and lower-class families, in which parents issue directives to their children rather than negotiations, encourage the following and trusting of people in authority positions, and do not structure their children’s daily activities, but rather let the children play on their own. This method has benefits that prepare the children for a job in “working” class jobs, teaches the children to respect and take the advice of people in authority, and allows the children to become independent at a younger age.

Student discussion:

Why do you think each social class shapes kids these ways? Brainstorm your own hypothesis here.

Analyze either SHS families in general or your family – which style do you think they are and why? Can you give a specific example?

6. Conclusions or questions about the reciprocal connection between education and income?

Higher Income = More Elite College (from no college all the way to the Ivies)

People from different social classes are more likely to interact together at college. From The Upshot of NY Times, this interactive site allows you to see what percent of students from the top 1% and bottom 60% attend each school of higher education. You can click on the link above to search your own schools and see more data, but below are two images from the link.
First, this image shows in general that the more income a family has (left side y-axis), the more elite the school that their kids attend:

And the list below shows how schools rank in terms of students from the top 1% of income compared to the number of students from the bottom 60%:

Not only is educational level shaped by parents’ social class, but even the major that a student chooses is too. This research from Natasha Quadlin shows that the major a student chooses at college is influenced by social class,
“…income gaps between fields are often larger than gaps between those with college degrees and those without them. Natasha Quadlin finds that This gap is in many ways due to differences in funding at the start of college that determines which majors students choose….She finds that students who pay for college with loans are more likely to major in applied non-STEM fields, such as business and nursing, and they are less likely to be undeclared. However, students whose funding comes primarily from grants or family members are more likely to choose academic majors like sociology or English and STEM majors like biology or computer science.”

Matchmaking and Education

Besides the likelihood of meeting friends and potential spouses at college, there are specific apps and websites to help matchmake couples from Ivy League+ schools. This 2019 Harvard Gazette article reviews three of them including:

  • BluesMatch, a company based in London that matches Oxford, Cambridge, and Ivy League graduates, said it makes sense that as people experience search fatigue from broad, impersonal online dating pools, they’re drawn to sites that narrow the field by matching users’ interests or backgrounds. “People get tired of using Tinder or Match because there are too many people,” said Law during a Skype chat from London. “And they often don’t have the level of conversation that someone from Oxford or the Ivy League gets excited by.”
  • Elegant Introductions out of Miami, are matchmakers for a clientele based in Miami and Boston. Most of their clients, said Gold, are highly educated and professionally successful, are involved in their community, appreciate the arts, and have been screened to make sure they are who they say they are. Applicants have to show proof of an Ivy League degree.

Additionally, if you are interested:

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