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Social Class, Academic Ability, and College "Quality"

Jerome Karabel and Alexander W. Astin
Social Forces
Vol. 53, No. 3 (Mar., 1975), pp. 381-398
Published by: Oxford University Press
DOI: 10.2307/2576581
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2576581
Page Count: 18
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Social Class, Academic Ability, and College "Quality"
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Abstract

Many studies have examined the effects of social class and academic ability on access to higher education, but there has been little systematic research on the factors influencing who goes where to college. Yet the existing literature indicates that hierarchial differentiation among colleges is an increasingly salient issue for students of education and social stratification. Using nationally representative data from the joint research program of the American Council on Education and the University of California at Los Angeles, this study analyzes the relative influence of social background and academic ability in determining the quality of the college attended. The results indicate that college quality, as measured by selectivity and affluence, is significantly related to social class, with the relationship between the two variables mediated primarily by academic ability. Cross-tabular and regression analyses indicate that measured academic ability is the more powerful predictor of the quality of the college attended, though social class has an independent impact. The study concludes with a discussion of findings that bear on the emerging conflict between merit and equality in higher education.

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