While patterns of inequality in access and attainment in higher education are well documented, sociologists have left largely unexplored the question of disparities in skill development during college. Following a cohort of students across 23 four-year U.S. institutions from entry into college through their senior year, we examine inequalities in development of general collegiate skills. Findings indicate that despite unequal starting points, students from less educated families gain skills at the same rate as those from more educated families. African-American students, in contrast, enter college with lower levels of general collegiate skills than their white peers and gain less over time. A substantial portion, but not all, of the African-American/white gap in general collegiate skills is explained by academic preparation and selectivity of the institutions attended. Notably, African-American and white students experience similar benefits from being academically prepared and attending more selective institutions. These findings provide valuable insights for research and policy concerned with inequality in higher education.

Click here for the full article, or here for a summary and Q & A with one of the co-authors, Josipa Roksa.