Grading On a Curve: Do First-Gen Grads Fall Flat?

September 23, 2019

Keynote Presentation by Ana Hernández Kent

Presentation slides (pdf)

Is education the “great equalizer of the conditions of men,” as American educator Horace Mann called it?

In this video, Policy Analyst Ana Hernández Kent explores the answer using new research from the St. Louis Fed’s Center for Household Financial Stability.

Kent explains that first-generation college graduates are a key demographic to analyze because they best exemplify higher education’s promise of upward mobility. She notes that first-generation college graduates are declining as a percentage of U.S. adults with bachelor's degrees.

And while those who do become first-generation graduates get a financial boost from their degrees, it's not big enough for them to catch up to similar graduates whose parents also have four-year degrees.

Segments include:

  • (10:50) – What does the overall population look like in terms of educational attainment?
  • (25:18) – What are the “marked” racial and ethnic differences in intergenerational college persistence?
  • (27:11) – How do the “parent boost” and “college boost” affect income and wealth?
  • (37:20) – A reminder that college “isn’t the answer for all.”

Audience Q&A

After the keynote, Kent was joined by Julie Stackhouse, executive vice president of the St. Louis Fed’s Supervision division; William R. Emmons, assistant vice president and lead economist with the Center for Household Financial Stability; and Lowell R. Ricketts, lead analyst for the Center.

Stackhouse shared her experience as a first-generation college graduate, and the panelists fielded questions from the audience.

Additional Resources

Get notified about upcoming events and videos. This popular lecture series, open to the public, addresses key issues of the day. It also provides the opportunity to ask questions of Fed experts. Views expressed are not necessarily those of the St. Louis Fed or Federal Reserve System.


Contact Us

Ellen Amato | 314‑202‑9909

Media questions