Over the past 30 years income inequality has been increasing. The “Occupy Wall Street” movement and its anguish toward the “1%” offers a perfect example to the ever widening income gap and intensity around the topic. One substantial reason for the discrepancy between incomes can be explained through an individual’s return on their education. “In dollar terms, 1973 college graduates earned 45 percent more than high school graduates; by 1994 they earned 65 percent more, based on real average hourly wages for college and high school graduates (Baumol and Binder, 1997). As this income disparity continues to grow, an emphasis on helping American youth attend postsecondary school (PSS) or some form of college becomes increasing salient. Almost 15 years ago President Bill Clinton, in his 1997 State of the Union address urged Americans to enhance their efforts in helping individuals obtain college degrees. He said, “We must make the thirteenth and fourteenth years of education—at least two years of college—just as universal in America by the 21st century as a high school education is today, and we must open the doors of college to all Americans (Mathtech Inc., 1998).” Now, 13 years into the 21st century we continue to search for answers on how to “open the doors of college to all Americans.”
One of the first steps to understanding the issue of helping Americans attend PSS is first understanding what factors influence whether or not an individual chooses to attend college. I propose that one factor which can have a significant effect on an American youth’s decision to pursue PSS is the education achievements of their parents. Additionally, I examine the relationship between the influence of a father attending college verses a mother attending college can have on a child’s decision to attend additional school.
Much of the research on college attendance patterns is founded upon the “human capital” model proposed by Gary Becker. “According to this theory, one decides to enroll in college as an investment in future earning power (Mathtech Inc., 1998:1).” As stated previously, individuals whom attend college have a higher earning power which would also suggest that parents who attended college would also have increased family incomes. This monetary factor can aid in a young person college decision in a number of ways. Cecillia Rouse (1994) found that higher family income levels increase the probability of a high school student applying for college. Scholars have also found that there are “persistent patterns of stratification of college enrollments by income (Manski, 1992:16).” Additional monetary factors such as tuition cost, employment rates, and financial aid availability can also have significant influences on individuals attending PSS (Manski and Wise, 1983).
While the income in which parents return toward their family may aid a child’s opportunity to continue their schooling financially, it may be the example of...