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This paper examines changes in the distribution of family income over 30 years, estimating the effect of parental resources on college education, and noting the fact that families at the bottom of the income distribution were much poorer in the 1990s than the 1970s, while the opposite was true for families in the top quartile. Data came from three longitudinal surveys of high school graduates during the 1970s-90s. Each survey examined parent educational background and family income during the senior year of high school. Follow-up information was collected 2 years after respondents' senior year of high school. This provided information on college attendance. There was little increase in the percentage of students attending four-year colleges between 1972-82. Between 1982-92, there was a substantial increase, though it was concentrated among children in the upper two quartiles. Family incomes only rose for families in the top quartile during the study period. They stagnated for the middle two quartiles and fell slightly for the lowest quartile. Income substantially affected enrollment. There was a much weaker contrast across quartiles when examining the percentage ever attending any college (versus those attending a four-year college). (Contains 23 references.) (SM)

Descriptors: College Attendance, College Bound Students, Enrollment Trends, Family Income, Higher Education, Parent Financial Contribution, Paying for College

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Autor: Acemoglu, Daron; Pischke, Jorn-Steffen


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