U.S. News & World Report tells us that they use 15 categories to rank colleges. At the top of their list are graduation rates and reputation. Student selectivity, faculty and financial resources also are supposed to demonstrate academic excellence.
But what if they missed the most important categories?
A Mobility Report Card
Led by economist Raj Chetty, a group of scholars created mobility scores by looking at the correlation between a college and income mobility for 30 million students. Their focus has just been who attends a school and how well they do afterwards. Called access, who attends involves income distribution data that indicate the proportion of poor students. Then, the outcomes part is about graduates’ income quintiles at 32-34 years old.
So, which are the best colleges to attend if you come from the bottom and aspire to the top?
And we also have high success rates when we look at the bottom 40% moving to the top 40%:
Schools like Stanford are considered the best in the country. Ranked fourth by U.S. News, Stanford is not near the top in a Mobility Report Card. Close to two-thirds of the students at Stanford are from households with incomes in the top quintile. Many of those students remained affluent. However just 2.2% of the students at Stanford who also became rich adults were from a poor household.
Our Bottom Line: The American Dream
In a Freakonomics interview, Raj Chetty said that his goal was more effective public policy. We could also say that Dr. Chetty’s goal is perpetuating the American Dream. First described by author James Truslow Adams in 1931 when economic growth was plunging and unemployment was heading toward 25%, the American Dream was a part of our national identity.
By looking at colleges with high mobility scores, we can say that the U.S. remains a land of opportunity.
My sources and more: Described by Freakonomics, Stanford Professor Raj Chetty’s Equality of Opportunity Project is monumentally impressive. (We’ve looked previously at his neighborhood research.) While today’s facts mostly came from this paper, NY Times interactives here and here are amazing.