College benefits the poor the most

Fascinating new study on the economic relevance of higher education – cited on Freakonomics.

A new study finds that the students who are least likely to go to college (based on family background, abilities, and friend group) are the ones with the most to gain from a degree. Jennie E. Brand and Yu Xie find that the unlikeliest male college graduates earned 30% more over their lifetimes than comparable men who earned only a high school degree. In contrast, male college graduates most likely to go to college earned only 10% more than their non-college-educated counterparts.  Brand and Xie observed a similar trend for women.  The authors believe that the tough labor market faced by non-college-educated, disadvantaged students partly explains the results, but they point to an additional factor: economic motivation. “For students from disadvantaged groups, college is a novelty that demands economic justification,” Brand said. “By contrast, for students from advantaged backgrounds, college is a culturally expected norm. Economic gain is less of a motivation.”

Very intuitive – and probably quite applicable in the Indian social structure too.   You’ll find that across villages in India, mothers know that education will help their children move to a better life.  They save up money, often hiding it from their husbands, to try and create a better future for their children.

We owe it to them to increase our educational infrastructure – any way that we can.