First generation elite: the role of school social networks
Speaker(s)Sarah Cattan (Institute for Fiscal Studies, United Kingdom)
Date and time
October 11, 2021
12:00 - 13:00
This paper examines whether increasing the exposure of low socio-economic status (SES) students to classmates from elite educated families during high school can strengthen their chances of becoming first generation elites. Using administrative data from Norway and exploiting within-school, cross-cohort variation in the composition of high school peers' parental characteristics, we estimate the causal effect of elite social networks - measured by the proportion of parents with elite education in the youth's school cohort -- on the probability to enroll in an elite degree. We find that exposure to elite networks promotes elite educational attainment, but this effect is four times higher for high SES students than it is for low SES students. We show that this gradient in the effect of exposure to elite networks is partly due to teachers' assessments in schools with stronger elite networks being more strongly biased against low SES students. Moreover, the aspirations evoked by elite educated parents may also be too far from low SES children's current experiences to give them an incentive to close the elite education gap with their high SES counterparts.
(with Kjell Salvanes and Emma Tominey)
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