Historical Trend Report Shows Family Income is a Major Indicator in College Entrance, Selection, Graduation

On April 19, 2016, the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education held an event at the National Press Club to announce the release of the Indicators of Higher Education Equity in the United States — 2016 Historical Trend Report. The report, by the Pell Institute and the University of Pennsylvania’s Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy (PennAHEAD) examines trends in post-secondary enrollment in the U.S. by family income, race/ethnicity, and family socioeconomic status. It uses data from the Current Population Survey (CPS), the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Beginning Postsecondary Study, the NCES high school longitudinal studies, and other public sources.

The report shows that while bachelor’s degree attainment rates have increased for all family income quartiles, the distribution of bachelor’s degree attainment between family income levels has remained relatively constant since 1970. The top two family income quartiles together accounted for 72 percent of the total bachelor’s degrees attained in 1970 and 77 percent of the bachelor’s degrees in 2014. It indicates that students from higher and lower income quartiles enroll in different types of colleges and universities with varying rates of college success.