Is It Always Better to Have Friends in High Places? Effects of Friends' Socioeconomic Status on Future College Attendance among Youth

Jessica McCrory, University of Pennsylvania
Grace Kao, University of Pennsylvania

Using the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), a nationally-representative sample of seventh to twelfth graders in 1994-95, we examine how friends’ socioeconomic status affects students’ odds of attending college seven years later, and how these effects vary with students’ social class. We introduce and evaluate three hypotheses. First, the booster hypothesis suggests that high-SES best friends are beneficial regardless of students’ own social class. Second, the homophily hypothesis posits that same-SES best friends are most beneficial to students’ attainment. Finally, the heterophily hypothesis predicts that cross-class friendships produce the best outcomes. While descriptive tabulations support the booster hypothesis, multivariate models including other characteristics show that the homophily hypothesis holds for high- and mid-SES students. Low-SES youth benefit most from having mid-SES friends. Finally, we find that high-SES youth with no friends are more likely to attend college than those with low-SES best friends.

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Presented in Poster Session 3