Sunday, December 18, 2011

Characteristics of smart people who don't go to college

In the comments section of the last post, reader SFG wonders about the characteristics of people who are smart but who do not go to college.

Using GSS data, I created a two-category variable where people with eight through ten out of ten questions correct on a vocabulary quiz but who never went to college are assigned a one, and everyone else is given a zero. Those in the first category make up about 11 percent of the total adult population surveyed over the past 40 years.

Next, I chose eight variables as predictors. Here are the logistic regression coefficients (sample size = 16,215):

Logistic Regression Coefficients

Year -.02
Age .02
Sex .42
Race 1.45
Father's education .03
Church attendance -.04
Political conservatism .01
Number of offspring -.03

All of the predictors are significantly related to the outcome variable except for political conservatism. So what is the profile of someone who is smart but went no further than high school?  I'll attempt to list factors from most powerful to least: older, white, being surveyed in earlier years, female, having an educated father, going to church less often, and having fewer children.

I also compared the mean incomes of the two categories. The smart group that didn't go to college made about $1,000 more a year than the average for the other group.

Many of the factors make sense. Older people from earlier cohorts were less likely to go to college, even if they were intelligent. The same for women. Blacks are much less likely to be bright people who fail to attend college. Having a successful father can sometimes open a good career path that requires no higher education. Perhaps irreligiosity indicates unconventionality. Political attitudes appear to have no effect on choosing to avoid college.

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