Grandparents Count Too

Although poverty profoundly makes education more challenging, it is widely believed that providing more opportunities for children of poor families to attend college is a good step in addressing social inequality and mobility. Poverty is often associated with parents of low educational attainment. Thus, in the US, most college admissions take into account if an applicant comes from a family whose parents never entered college. Recognizing the greater challenges faced by these first-generation students is necessary to ensure that they navigate through college with adequate support and guidance. Matthew Lawrence of Reed College, however, shows that one actually has to go beyond the parents, the educational attainment of the grandparents is part of the picture too.

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In a paper published in the American Educational Research Journal, Lawrence, using longitudinal data involving about 10,000 students, shows that the educational attainment of the grandparents is correlated with the college destination of grandchildren. In the chart below the percent for each type of student (First - a student is a child of parents who did not finish college, Second - a student's parent has finished college but grandparents are not college graduates, and Third - a student's parent and grandparent have finished college) that has entered a selective four year college is provided.

Percent of students entering a selective four year college for each family educational status.

There are obviously far less first-generation students entering a selective college. But second-generations are likewise less likely to be found enrolled in selective colleges. Recognizing the above correlations surely makes the following recent news from the Philippines infuriating.

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Students from poor families need all the support and opportunity they could get. Poor students find education more challenging. And as recent research shows, it even goes deeper than one generation. An opportunity wasted is a precious opportunity lost.