1/11/2013 11:25 AM ET|
College: Ticket to the middle class
And that ride is becoming too expensive. The cost of higher education is the decisive factor keeping have-not families from giving their kids a better life.
If you want to get ahead financially, it pays to choose your parents carefully.
Simply put, affluent parents are able to provide many of the underpinnings of a middle-class (or better) life for their offspring. Wealthier parents may offer cash for a down payment so their kids can become homeowners, or they may cover health insurance premiums to protect their children from catastrophic medical bills.
Most importantly, though, wealthier parents can help pay for one of the most important factors in economic success: a college degree. Increasingly, that single factor is giving their kids a crucial advantage that seems to be slipping from the grasp of children from lower-income families.
Consider some of the research on economic mobility in the United States:
People born at either end of the economic spectrum are likely to stay there
Research shows that if your folks were rich, you'll likely be rich too, or at least well off. If your folks were poor, you likely will struggle financially as well.
Forty percent of those raised in the top 20% of incomes in the U.S. remain in that high-income bracket as adults, according to research by the Pew Charitable Trusts, and 63% remain above the middle. Similarly, 40% of those raised in the bottom 20% of incomes stay there as adults, and 70% remain below the middle. There's still some economic mobility, of course, but there's less than you'd find in Canada, Western Europe and even traditionally class-bound Great Britain, according to research by Scandinavian economist Markus Jantti.
The Pew study also found that a four-year college degree is an important determinant of economic success. Researchers found that college degrees help prevent "downward mobility," keeping those born in higher-income brackets from falling out, while allowing those in lower-income brackets to move up.
Gap between rich and poor in college attendance, completion is growing
Two University of Michigan researchers studied college attendance patterns of people born between 1961 and 1964 and compared them with those born between 1979 and 1982.
Over the course of one generation, college attendance and completion rates soared among those in the higher income brackets. In the lower brackets, the rate of increase was much less dramatic, widening the gap between rich and poor.
For example, 80% of those in the highest income bracket attended college in the early 2000s, compared with 58% of the same income group 20 years earlier. The highest income bracket included people with incomes in the top quartile.
Only 29% of those in the lowest quartile of income attended college in the 2000s, up just 10 percentage points from the 19% rate seen in the early 1980s.
Even more telling is the rate of college completion. Among young people who came from the highest-income households, 54% completed college, up from 36% two decades ago. Among the lowest-income group, the college completion rate went from 5% to 9%.
Parents torn between providing access and teaching responsibility
Some of my readers say they want their kids to pay for all or some of their own college educations -- to teach them responsibility. Others cite the importance of setting aside money to improve the odds their children will complete school.
For example, Chris Hubbard of Thousand Oaks, Calif., doesn't want his kids to disappear into the work world before they get degrees. Hubbard said his parents and grandparents paid for his and his sister's college education, so they could graduate without student loans.
"I will do my best to do the same for my kids. I want them to be able to go directly to college after high school without first working for a year" or more, Hubbard wrote on my Facebook page. "Once they get used to having some money, it is tough to give up a full-time income and lessen their living standard for improved future income."
Matt Furrier of Boston agrees. He put himself through school, commuting to a state college, an experience he doesn't want his children to repeat.
"(M)y wfe & I absolutely will pay for the bulk of their private colleges! I want much better for them," Furrier wrote on my Facebook page. "We can afford to do it."
More from Liz Weston:
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HAVE OVERPAID TEACHERS WITH BIG BENEFITS AND PERKS TO PUSH THEIR LIBERAL
CRAP ON AMERICAN BY BRAINWASHING STUDENTS AND IT'S COSTING THEM MORE BUT
IT'S NOT HELPING THEM DEAL WITH THE FACT THAT LIFE ISN'T FAIR AND YOU DON'T GET
EVERYTHING YOU DESERVE! MOST COLLEGE KIDS KNOW NOTHING ABOUT THE REAL
AMERICA AND HOW TO WORK HARD FOR YOURSELF NOT TO RELY ON BIG GOVT LIES!
Liz, I guess you haven't been interviewing many candidates for jobs lately. Wal-Mart is paying supervisors with a Master $9.35 per hour. I have fired four college grads in the past four months and my best, smartest and most talented employees are High School grads without a degree...The colleges and the Alum make sure corporations won't even interview anyone without a degree. People are forced to spend $20,000 to $30,000 for an online degree just to get an interview for a job paying $11 per hour....
Liz you and many others are brain washed. How did America ever become the best country in the world? It wasn't with a college educated society as only 26% of adults have a college education.....Yet our so-called college grads are flunking America into debt and poverty by outsourcing and selling America to China and Mexico.
Oh yeah: always. Great journalism.
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