Tuesday, October 14, 2014

College and class

There have been a lot of articles lately about how students from working-class backgrounds are under-represented in American colleges and universities.  Most of them imply that this is to some extent new--that colleges used to be more inclusive.  The Roper organization did a survey of college students in 1949 which sheds some light on this issue.  It asked students about their father's occupation, using a fairly detailed classification.  Other Roper surveys of the general public taken at about the same time used the same classification, so you can compare the fathers to the general public:

                                                                                                 Students' Fathers
                          Public     Veterans  Non-vets
Professional               5.2%       12.4%     19.3%
Salaried-executive        10.7%       13.7%     18.5%
Proprietor-other          11.9%       15.3%     18.4%
Salaried-minor            10.4%       12.7%     15.3%
Proprietor-farm            5.1%        3.9%      5.4%

Wages-other                18.2%      11.7%      8.2%
Wages-factory              20.9%       8.3%      4.5%
Wages-farm                  6.1%       0.2%      0.4%

Students from middle-class (especially professional) backgrounds were substantially over-represented, but there was a difference between students who were veterans and those who weren't.   For example, among non-veterans, those whose fathers were professionals outnumbered those whose fathers were factory workers by more than 4:1; among students who were veterans, the ratio was less than 1.5:1.  Apparently the GI Bill of Rights had a big impact.

[Data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]

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