Paul Krugman references an interesting study in his latest column:
[T]he National Center for Education Statistics, which tracked a group of students who were in eighth grade in 1988. The study found, roughly speaking, that in modern America parental status trumps ability: students who did very well on a standardized test but came from low-status families were slightly less likely to get through college than students who tested poorly but had well-off parents.
The thing is, the book The Bell Curve did a similar thing, with a huge data set (the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth), for a variety of social indicators. It found overwhelmingly the opposite — someone at, say, the 75th percentile of IQ, from a family at the 25th percentile of income, is better off than someone who is not as bright, but comes from a higher-earning family. Unfortunately, I don’t have the book in front of me, so I’m not sure if they did this for college graduation specifically. Does anyone know if they did, or if a study besides the one Krugman cites did? If so, e-mail me at rverbruggen [die spammers] nationalreview [seriously] com.
Update: Can’t find anything definitive, but here’s an abstract of a 1982 paper that used the NLSY. It says, “The results indicate . . . substantial differences by SES [socioeconomic status]. The academic characteristics, however, are by far the strongest predictors of degree completion. Moreover, when the academic characteristics are included in the analysis, the effect of SES is somewhat reduced.”