Emma Tominey: First generation elite: the role of school social networks

A very high return is associated with studying for an elite degree. With intergenerational persistence particularly at the top of parental education distribution, low socio- economic status (SES) students face barriers from becoming a first generation. We focus on the causal effect of elite social networks – measured by the elite education of high school peers’ parents, on the probability to study for an elite degree (including law, STEM or medicine) and ask if these effects differ across SES. Exploiting within-school cross-cohort variation in the proportion of elite parent peers, we find a meaningful effect of social networks on elite education choices – which is three times higher in high SES compared to low SES households. We investigate mechanisms for this SES gap including change in average quality of peers; aspirations and teacher bias.