Talking 'Bout My Generation: Defining "First-Generation College Students" in Higher Education Research

Toutkoushian, Stollberg, & Slaton / / April 2018

diverse group of students sitting at table

In this study, we examined whether the way in which first-generation college status was defined affected its association with the likelihood of a student going to college. We used data from the Educational Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:02), which is a nationally representative longitudinal sample of 10th-grade students in 2002 who were followed up in 2004, 2006, and 2012. Research Design: We used binary and multinomial logistic regression analysis to examine how first-generation college status, as well as other personal, family, and school characteristics, were associated with whether a student took a college entrance exam, applied to college, and enrolled in college. For this study, we constructed eight different definitions of a first-generation college student. The definitions varied with regard to the level of education needed for a parent to be considered "college educated" and the number of parents meeting the education criteria.