Sociologist explores who goes to college and why

04/15/05

ITHACA, N.Y. -- Who goes to college and why? The answer is important because education is an ever-important predictor for labor market success. Yet, social scientists know very little about the complex reasons why some students prepare to go to college and others do not.

To give scholars a new framework with which to investigate these issues, Stephen L. Morgan, associate professor of sociology and director of the Center for the Study of Inequality at Cornell University, has published a book, On the Edge of Commitment: Educational Attainment and Race in the United States (Stanford University Press, 2005).

"We have lots of theories regarding some of the predictors for educational attainment, such as parents' education, family income, test scores, family disruptions, neighborhood and school characteristics and rising tuition costs," says Morgan. "But no adequate theoretical model exists that can be used to model how high school graduates and their parents form beliefs in order to make decisions about college enrollment. The book explores what kinds of data should be collected in order to evaluate incentive-based explanations, such as shifts in tuition and financial aid."

The book uses a model to explain puzzling race differences in patterns of high school achievement and subsequent rates of college enrollment. Morgan not only improves on previous models that address educational attainment but also sets a research agenda for collecting the data that's needed to make better predictions about who prepares for and decides to go to college, and why.

Morgan joined the Cornell faculty in 2000 after earning his Ph.D. in sociology from Harvard University. He also has an M.Phil. in comparative social research (1995) from the University of Oxford and a B.A. in sociology (1993) from Harvard.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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