(CNN) — Children from families in the top 1% financially are more than twice as likely to attend an elite university than those from middle-class families with comparable SAT and ACT scores, a new study found.
The research was conducted by Opportunity Insights, a group of Harvard researchers and policy analysts studying inequality.
The researchers looked at the eight Ivy League universities, in addition to Stanford, MIT, Duke and the University of Chicago.
The researchers set out to determine if the schools perpetuate privilege and how they could diversify the United States’ top earners by changing their admissions policies. To answer this question, they analyzed anonymous admissions data linked to income tax records and SAT and ACT test scores.
The study used tax forms from 1999 to 2015 and test scores from 2001 to 2015.
Despite the significant advantage to be admitted into elite schools, the study found there was no similar admissions advantage at flagship public colleges.
“The stark difference in admissions gradients by parental income between selective public and private institutions suggests that highly selective private colleges may have the capacity to change the composition of their student bodies by changing their admissions practices to emulate those used by highly selective public colleges,” the study stated.
The study determined multiple factors drove the advantage: preference for legacy admissions, weight placed on nonacademic credentials, and athletic recruitment. The study also found the factors did not affect post-university outcomes but SAT and ACT scores and academic performance were both more accurate at predicting a student’s success after school.
The study found attending one of the elite institutions has long-lasting effects: increasing students’ chances of reaching the top 1% of income by 60%, almost doubling the likelihood of attending an elite graduate school, and tripling their chances of getting employed at a prestigious firm.
The study defined the top 1% as having an income over $611,000.
Since leadership positions in the US are disproportionately held by graduates of elite schools, the researchers at Opportunity Insights assert the schools could diversify the country’s leaders by changing their admissions policies.
“We conclude that even though they educate a small share of students overall and therefore cannot change rates of social mobility by themselves, Ivy-Plus colleges could meaningfully diversify the socioeconomic origins of society’s leaders by changing their admissions practices,” the study stated.
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