My 15 minutes continues

In addition to the recent NYT and BoingBoing mentions, it turns out I got a letter to the editor accepted in The Atlantic. In case you don’t have a subscription, here’s the text of my letter.

Ross Douthat does an impressive job showing how college admissions tend to favor economically privileged students (November Atlantic), offering damning statistics about how kids who are admitted to the best colleges tend to come from wealthier than average families.

However, these statistics have one critical omission: families with college-age kids are by definition not average. For one thing, they are older than average by a considerable amount. The median income for all families in 2001 was about $42,000 per year. But the median income for families with heads age 45 to 54 — those most likely to have college-age kids — was $58,000.

I doubt this explains all of the economic disparities Douthat complains of, but I suspect it explains a lot of them.

Douthat replies that he still doesn’t think it explains much of the discrepancy — a child from a family earning $58,000 only has a 13 percent chance of getting a B.A. by age 24, compared to a 50 percent chance if his family makes over $90,000.

If those numbers are accurate, they are indeed startling. I just wish they’d made their way into the original article.

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