Working Papers

The following manuscripts are either in preparation or under review.

Thompson, Jason. “Selectivity and Status Reproduction: The Role of Postsecondary Institutional Selectivity in the Transmission of Status Across a Generation.” Under review.

This study revisits the role of a college degree as “the great equalizer.” In doing so, I deploy data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (NLSY79) to estimate the intergenerational associations in socioeconomic status (SES) among graduates from non-selective, less selective, and selective four-year colleges. Intergenerational social mobility varies by measure of SES and tier of degree selectivity. For college-educated men and women born prior to 1965, parent-child associations in SES are either statistically insignificant or small in magnitude among bachelor’s degree holders from colleges in the middle tier of admissions selectivity. In contrast, there is evidence of social reproduction among graduates of the most selective colleges and mixed evidence of intergenerational associations among graduates of the least selective colleges. The paper concludes with a descriptive discussion of potential avenues through which the selectivity of a college degree relates with social mobility and status replication. These findings add nuance to our understanding of a college degree as “the great equalizer” and contribute to the growing literature regarding the connections between postsecondary educational selectivity and SES. 

 Thompson, Jason. “Consolidating Success: Assessing Recent Trends in Sibling Similarities in Educational Attainment.” In preparation.

Research has long noted the persistent relationships between SES and educational attainment. This paper builds upon the literature to detail a global effect of family background on siblings’ educational attainment over time. I deploy data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) on siblings born between 1955 and 1984 to examine the global effect of family background on educational attainment. Using multi-level models, I calculate intra-class correlation coefficients for groups of siblings from contiguous birth cohorts to show that sibling correlations in years of education increased in the second half of the twentieth century. Additionally, I calculate the joint probability of two siblings within a family both attaining a particular level of education and attending a selective college. Findings show that families of higher SES hold an advantage in securing higher levels of education for their children in comparison with families of lower SES. Furthermore, pairs of siblings from advantaged backgrounds hold a greater likelihood of both accessing a selective college education.

Thompson, Jason. “Selective Success: The Socioeconomic Returns to Postsecondary Institutional Selectivity.” In preparation.

Ordinary least squares estimates of the returns to a college education show significant associations between institutional selectivity and socioeconomic outcomes in adulthood. However, attempts to mitigate selection bias in estimates of the returns to a selective college education have provided mixed results. This paper reexamines the returns to attending a selective college by implementing an instrumental variables (IV) strategy to estimate the effects of institutional selectivity on degree attainment, occupational status, individual wages, family income, and net worth. In addition to expanding the analysis to include family-level measures of SES, this study offers a portrait of socioeconomic attainment later into the life-course than found in prior studies of returns to institutional selectivity. Capturing SES at multiple points in time and later in adulthood mitigates at least a portion of the error in the measurement of status taken at a single point in time and earlier in the working career (Solon 1989, 1992; Baker & Solon 2003; Haider & Solon 2003; Mazumder 2001, 2005).