Who Drops Out From College? A Study of Social Origin at a Midwestern Teaching University

Joelle Spotswood , University of Kansas

Previous research has examined the degree to which social origins affect college completion, but few studied the association of family background and high school neighborhood contexts with regard to the rate of four-year college dropouts. To fill this gap, this study utilizes rich administrative data on first-time, full-time freshman cohorts (2007-2014) from a four-year Midwestern teaching university which provide information on students’ demographic characteristics, academic performance, and family background are combined with the secondary data on the high-school neighborhood characteristics. OLS and hazard models are estimated. Surprisingly, parental income is not significant for withdrawal. Instead, having a college educated parent reduces the likelihood of withdrawal significantly and substantially and increases the odds of a student’s continued enrollment. Being white and female are also associated with reduced likelihood of attrition. These results lend support for the transmission of cultural rather than economic capital. The further implications of these findings are discussed.

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 Presented in Session 8. Economy, Labor Force, Education, & Inequality