Michael Hout

Michael Hout is Natalie Cohen professor of sociology and demography at the University of California, Berkeley. This article was made possible with the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the University of California, Berkeley, and Princeton University.

Recent Articles

Rationing College Opportunity

Many more young people could succeed at college if given the chance. But public policy has been raising hurdles rather than increasing access.

Americans put great stock in the promise of a college education. Most adults see a degree as important for personal success, and they are right. Social and economic data confirm that individuals benefit from college. Communities gain, too. College graduates are more likely to stay employed, buy houses, marry, pay taxes, avoid welfare, commit fewer crimes, volunteer for socially useful causes, vote, be happier and healthier, and live longer. Thus it comes as quite a surprise to learn that the current college attainment rate is about what it was in the 1970s. Today, 32 percent of young people earn a college degree, compared to 31 percent back in the early 1970s. As the chart shows, between 1965 and 1974, college attainment increased from 23 percent to 31 percent, continuing an upward trend that started in the 1920s. Between the high point in 1974 and the low point in 1984, college attainment slumped back to 27 percent before rebounding to 32 percent by 1994. Since then, higher education...