How The Exclusive World Of Academia Can Skew Economic Analysis

It's another area of U.S. society increasingly dominated by the elite. How The Exclusive World Of Academia Can Skew Economic Analysis Giphy

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As America heads deeper into an uncertain economy, many of us rely on the outlooks of so-called experts to provide some guidance. But who are these individuals who claim to have all the answers? A new study found that they’re more and more likely to come from an elite background with little exposure to the issues that lower- and middle-class Americans deal with on a daily basis.

The gap is widening

It’s no surprise that the realm of academia has long been dominated by those with plenty of generational wealth and influence to spare. But you’d be forgiven for assuming that in today’s modern society things are starting to get a little more equitable.

In reality, institutes of higher learning are increasingly dominated by a select group of well-connected families. And the issue is especially glaring when we focus on programs related to economics.

Breaking down the data

There was once a period of time, not too long ago in American history, during which it was pretty common for college students to attain a type of advanced degree that their parents had not.

As college attendance increases overall, it’s natural that graduates would go on to have kids who also earn a degree — but the states shed a troubling light on the disparity:

  • Only 20% of natural-born Americans who earned a Ph.D. in economics in 1970 had a parent who also had a graduate degree.
  • According to recent data, that percentage has since ballooned to about 67%.
  • During the same 50+ years, the overall share of parents with graduate degrees and college-age kids only increased by 10 percentage points.

It all adds up to a system skewed toward the elite, leaving economists like Robert Metcalfe — who comes from a working-class family — feeling like he’s “always one step behind in the academy.”

Chris Agee
Chris Agee May 11th, 2023
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