Date of Thesis

Spring 2021


Income inequality and the lack of higher-education opportunities across the United States often correlate with families' socioeconomic status. In this honors thesis, the following questions will be examined: How does the social mobility of Bucknell Students compare with students from other national universities? How do a student’s race and financial aid status affect their ability to achieve social mobility? How has the rate of social mobility through Bucknell changed in recent years? How does a student’s current family socioeconomic status affect their ability to achieve high-income success upon graduation? Does the level of accessibility to Bucknell change when socioeconomic status and race are analyzed? What lessons can we learn from countries with high levels of social mobility and economic equality? By utilizing national university data from Opportunity Insights and data from Bucknell University’s Offices of Admissions, Registrar, and Financial Aid, this paper examines the ability of higher education institutions to promote social mobility for low-income students. This study finds that the ability for students to achieve high levels of economic success is relatively consistent among all students attending an elite institution. However, the low rates of social mobility at elite institutions are due to the limited number of low-income students admitted to the University. Further, this study finds that the ability to increase accessibility through generous financial aid support can significantly impact a university and a country’s ability to promote economic equality. The results indicate strong relationships between financial aid programs, college access, and social mobility, therefore supporting potential policy interventions that devote more attention to providing low-income students financial aid to increase their ability to apply and attend college and achieve upward mobility upon graduation.


income, inequality, mobility, higher education, access, Bucknell University

Access Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Type

Bachelor of Arts



Second Major

Environmental Studies

Minor, Emphasis, or Concentration


First Advisor

Geoff Schneider

Second Advisor

Erdogan Bakir

Third Advisor

Mehmet Dosemeci