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Oseguera WP coverMay 2012 | No. 2

Postsecondary Educational Pathways of Low- and Middle/High-Income Youth:
Using the Education Longitudinal Study (ELS) to Examine Tenth Graders' Transitions from High School

Leticia Oseguera

Project: National Analysis


This work examines the four-year trajectories of a national cohort of tenth graders by socioeconomic status to better understand pathways of educational movement. Drawing on the Education Longitudinal Study, we identify large differences in post high school transitions, conditional upon the type of educational status one secures during high school, across low-income and middle/high-income samples. Only when we take into account college readiness at high school graduation do we see similar proportions of low-income and middle/high-income students make the transition to college immediately after high school graduation. As the population of low socioeconomic status students in the U.S. continues to expand and the importance of obtaining a four-year higher education degree increases, understanding students’ post-high school behavior in light of their secondary education outcomes can guide policy to identify and close the gap in the pipeline to college access.



Feliciano-Ashtiani WP cover

May 2012 | No. 1

Postsecondary Educational Pathways of Low-Income Youth:
An Analysis of Add Health Data

Cynthia Feliciano and Mariam Ashtiani

Project: National Analysis


This study used data from a recent longitudinal survey conducted over a 14-year period to compare the educational pathways of young adults from low-income backgrounds to their middle/high-income counterparts. Specifically, the study examined whether the effect of low-income status in adolescence on postsecondary pathways is better explained by early academic indicators and educational ambitions or higher education enrollment patterns and out-of-school responsibilities. The analysis showed that low-income youth are disadvantages in terms of entry into higher education as well as degree attainment. Roughly half of young adults from low-income families do not complete any postsecondary schooling, and those who do enroll are less likely to earn bachelor's degrees, partly due to lower educational ambitions and lower academic achievement in adolescence. Post-high school experiences are most decisive, however:  Nontraditional patterns of enrollment in two-year colleges, shaped by out-of-school responsibilities such as full-time labor force participation and family obligations, are a key mechanism through which low-income status in adolescence leads to lower likelihood of degree completion in young adulthood.

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