Document Type


Department (Manual Entry)

Department of Economics and Finance


This research paper examines in depth the relationship between educational attainment in first-generation college students vs. non-first-generation college students. It analyzes how one’s educational attainment level is affected by changes in selected demographic and socioeconomic factors in the United States. This study further analyzes if differences in earnings among the two groups post collegiate education persist. Using the 2015 and 2017 data obtained from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, the proposed hypotheses are tested with the Linear Probability model and the Binomial Logit model to answer which demographic factors impact educational attainment of each group of students, as well as the standard wage equation, estimated using the Ordinary Least Squares regression to investigate wage differentials.

The empirical results on the analysis of socioeconomic impacts on educational attainment find that first-generation college students are 23-27% less likely to obtain a bachelor’s degree than non-first-generation college students. Further, an additional higher level of achievement in parental educational attainment in non-first-generation students nearly doubles the likelihood that an individual in that group will obtain a bachelor’s degree, as compared to those first-generation students. The empirical results also find that race, gender, and ethnicity are of the most influential variables in this study. The empirical analysis of earnings differential among first-generation and non-first-generation college students finds first-generation bachelor’s degree holders earn 14.1% less than non-first-generation bachelor’s degree holders. In order to improve the first-generation student educational attainment rate, several policies could be considered such as financial compensation, further academic support, and involving families throughout the college process more. In terms of improving the wage differences within the two groups, further advanced degree is beneficial, as well as selecting higher-paying majors, improving job search skills via campus career centers, increasing communication skills and professional networks (public speaking, internships), and increase in alumni connection whilst in college (via alumni office on campus).