Review Of "Top Student, Top School?: How Social Class Shapes Where Valedictorians Go To College" By A. Walton Radford

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Book Review

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Contemporary Sociology


In contemporary political discussions of rising class inequality in the United States, education is often highlighted as a crucial part of the solution. In fact, increasing access to higher education has been a mandate across sectors and factional lines. And in light of the upward swing in educational attainment at the bachelor’s level, the ranking and competitive standing of institutions becomes a critical point of differentiation. The advantage to attending selective institutions is clear, and the benefits are only growing. Students attending selective institutions are more likely to graduate and go on to attain an advanced degree, enjoy greater earnings (particularly for low socioeconomic-status students), and have greater occupational prestige and access to the levers of power (p. 7). Recent studies (Hoxby and Avery 2013) have drawn attention to the fact that high-achieving, low-income students are attending the most-selective colleges at significantly lower rates than their high-income counterparts—not because they are being rejected, but because they are in fact not applying.

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