UT students from lower-income families have among the highest chances of becoming rich adults, study shows

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Photo Credit: Elizabeth Jones | Daily Texan Staff

UT students from lower-income families have among the highest chances of becoming rich adults compared to other colleges, according to a study published this month by The Equality of Opportunity Project.

The project, comprised of a team of researchers from several universities, analyzed anonymous tax records from more than 30 million students born between 1980 and 1991 at more than 2,000 colleges across the U.S. and created a “mobility report card” for each one. The research, gathered with contributions from members of the U.S. Department of Treasury, seeks to determine how well universities across the country have built an economically diverse student body.

“Children from low-income families have nearly the same odds of reaching the top fifth of the income distribution as their peers from higher-income families at selective colleges,” The Equality of Opportunity Project said on their website. “The statistics constructed here give researchers and policymakers data to develop and test new policy solutions.”

Prior to this research, the most widely available data sets used to determine the economic diversity of universities relied solely on statistics using only students who had applied for or received federal financial aid, according to The New York Times, who made an interactive from the report’s data.

“You’re not easily going to find economic data (using FAFSA data) that reflects all the students, not at UT or any university,” said John Bird, UT director of media relations. “If you’re not getting any student loans or support, there’s not data on you at all.”

However, because this study used anonymous tax records that are not based on FAFSA applications, the data set is more inclusive, said Joe Williams, interim communications director in the Office of the Provost.

At UT, 56 percent of students come from the top 20 percent income bracket, or families making $110,000 or more per year. While the majority of all students end up in this income percentile after graduation, 7.1 percent of students are able to make it to the top 1 percent in adulthood. Additionally, 15 percent of UT students are likely to move up two or more income quintiles.

Six percent of UT students come from the bottom fifth income bracket, or families who make $20,000 or less per year — the most out of any school in the Big 12 and the 11th highest out of highly selective public universities. Students in this category have a 44 percent chance of moving to the top 20 percent as adults, again the highest percentage of Big 12 schools.

“Since we admit using the top 10 percent rule, students who do get in here are already really great students, whether they come from a high income bracket or a low,” Williams said. “Students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds come and get a really high-quality education and are able to move up very quickly compared to where they started.”

UT again surpassed other Big 12 schools in the category of median income after age 34, where UT students on average make $57,900 per year at this age — more than $5,000 more per year on average than the second-place college, Texas Christian University.

An interactive version of UT’s full mobility report card can be viewed on the Times website.