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New Paper Examines Why Intergenerational Immobility Resurfaces When Looking at Advanced Degree Holders

Higher education is the great equalizer. Correction: a bachelor’s degree is the great equalizer. Graduate and professional degrees? Not so much, according to a forthcoming study in Social Science Research that seeks to explain why intergenerational mobility is high for college graduates but lower among advanced degree holders.

These mobility studies mean that bachelor’s degrees effectively erase intergenerational socioeconomic association — and that an association between one’s family of origin and one’s own socioeconomic status re-emerges when looking at graduate and professional degree attainment.

As lead author Byeongdon Oh, a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at the University of Kansas, said last week, “Advanced degrees are worth it for many reasons.” But among graduate degree holders, “those who came from upper-class families are doing better in labor markets than those who came from lower-class families. Your advanced degree is not good enough to nullify your family background.”