The study looked at eight Ivy League schools, plus Stanford, M.I.T., Duke and the University of Chicago, to find that after accounting for other application factors such as test scores, wealthier students were still overrepresented at the colleges.
The study conducted by Harvard economists showed those in the top 1 percent were 34 percent more likely to get into the college than other applicants while those in the top 0.1 percent were 50 percent more likely to make it in even with the same ACT or SAT scores.
The top three reasons researchers found this to be the case is schools’ preferences towards students with family that have gone to the school before, recruited athletes and nonacademic ratings for students from private schools.
Nonacademic ratings are based on a student’s personality and extracurricular activities. Those in the top 0.1 percent are one and a half times more likely to have higher non-academic ratings than the middle class.
Recruiting athletes also tends to benefit the rich as some of the sports at these elite colleges cater to those normally practiced by wealthier individuals.
The study analyzed hundreds of thousands of students as it drew from federal records for almost all students from 1999 to 2015, looking at college attendance and parental income. Standardized test scores were also seen from 2001 to 2015.
Out of the 12 colleges from the “Ivy League Plus” group, the study was able to obtain internal admissions data from three of them. They did not disclose which schools they received data from.
The focus on legacy admissions and colleges’ admission of wealthy students has become an even hotter spot following the ruling from the Supreme Court that banned consideration of race in college admissions.
“Importantly, our findings reveal that class-based affirmative action (favoring students from more disadvantaged backgrounds) is not necessary to increase socioeconomic diversity at such colleges; simply removing the admissions advantages currently conferred to students from high-income families (or offsetting them with corresponding advantages for students from lower-income families) could increase socioeconomic diversity by an amount comparable to the impacts of race-based affirmative action on racial diversity,” the researchers concluded.
At public flagship universities, the researchers found the same advantages aren’t found for wealthier students. High-income and low-income applicants were just as likely to be admitted if they had the same scores.
M.I.T. is the only school out of the elite ones studied that didn’t give higher preference to wealthier students. It also has never used legacy admissions.
The researchers underscored the importance of their research by highlighting the outsized influence graduates from the top universities have on the country.
“Leadership positions in the United States are held disproportionately by graduates of highly selective private colleges. Less than half of one percent of Americans attend Ivy-Plus colleges (the eight Ivy League colleges, Chicago, Duke, MIT, and Stanford). Yet these twelve colleges account for more than 10% of Fortune 500 CEOs, a quarter of U.S. Senators, half of all Rhodes scholars, and three-fourths of Supreme Court justices appointed in the last half-century,” the researchers said.