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Family Structure, Human Capital Investment, and Aggregate College Attainment

Adam Blandin () and Christopher Herrington

No 446, 2018 Meeting Papers from Society for Economic Dynamics

Abstract: We provide new facts about the increase in US college attainment from 1995-2015. College attendance grew more among children from low resource families than among those from high resource families (7pp vs 1pp). However, college completion grew less among low resource children than high resource children (4pp vs 13pp). We propose a theory to explain the increase in aggregate college completion since 1995 that is consistent with these trends. The theory has two key components: (i) High resource families increased pre-college investment relative to low-resource families in response to a growing college wage premium. (ii) Pre-college investment is an important determinant of college completion conditional on attendance. Consistent with this theory, we provide empirical evidence of growing gaps in pre-college investment and college preparedness between children from high and low resource families. Finally, we construct a model of intergenerational human capital investment and college attainment to quantitatively test our theory.

New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-dge
Date: 2018
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