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Poverty and equality shape not just how students get to college, but how they make it through.

Assistant professor of education at Harvard University | Author of The Privileged Poor

Anthony Jack | Assistant Prof. of Ed. at Harvard University | Author of The Privileged Poor
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On Diversity: Access Ain’t Inclusion

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Access vs. Inclusion: Why Getting Into College Is Only Half the Battle

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Poverty & Equality: Who Gets to College, and Who Makes It Through? (9:21)

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How Inequality Shapes the College Experience

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Elite colleges are accepting diverse and disadvantaged students more than ever before—but to Anthony Jack, access does not equal acceptance. An Assistant Professor at Harvard and author of The Privileged Poor, Jack—once a low-income, first-generation college student himself—studies how poor students are often failed by the top schools that admit them. In talks, he details how class divides on campus create barriers to academic success—and shares what schools can do to truly level the playing field.

Anthony Jack, sociologist and Assistant Professor of Education at Harvard University, is transforming the way we address diversity and inclusion in education. His new book, The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges are Failing Disadvantaged Students, reframes the conversation surrounding poverty and higher education. In it, he explains the paths of two uniquely segregated groups. First, the “privileged poor”: students from low-income, diverse backgrounds who attended elite prep or boarding school before attending college. The second are what Jack calls the “doubly disadvantaged”—students who arrive from underprivileged backgrounds without prep or boarding school to soften their college transition. Although both groups come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, the privileged poor have more cultural capital to navigate and succeed—in the college environment and beyond.

“No matter how much a student knows about Chopin and Beethoven, at the end of the month, they’re still hungry.”— Anthony Jack, on the limits of cultural capital

“It’s one thing to graduate with a degree from an elite institution, and another thing to graduate with the social capital to activate that degree,”Jack explains. In many ways, rather than close the wealth gap, campus culture at elite schools further alienate poor students by making them feel like they don’t belong. To challenge these deeply ingrained social, cultural, and economic disparities on campus, we must first begin to question what we take for granted. Jack reveals how organizations—from administrators and association organizers, to educators and student activists—can ask the right questions and bridge the gap.

Anthony Jack is a junior fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows and assistant professor of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Recently, he wrote a feature for The New York Times Magazine’s Education Issue, based off his book and life experience as a low-income college student. His research has been cited by The New York Times, the Boston GlobeThe AtlanticThe Huffington PostThe National ReviewThe Washington Post, American RadioWorks, WBUR, and MPR. His book The Privileged Poor, was named the 2018 recipient of the Thomas J. Wilson Memorial Prize by Harvard University Press.


We really enjoyed Tony and thought he did a great job. All the feedback we got was really positive. I think his approach to inclusiveness was just what our organization was looking for and he was very authentic and genuine in his delivery.

PDC Energy

Speech Topics

Grit at School
The Privileged PoorHow Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantaged Students

What does it mean to be a poor student on a rich campus? This question is all the more important as colleges and universities continue to take affirmative steps to socioeconomically diversify their campuses. In this talk, Anthony Jack examines how class and culture shape how undergraduates navigate college by exploring the “experiential core of college life,” those too often overlooked moments between getting in and graduating.

Here, he sheds new light on how inequality is reproduced by contrasting the experiences of the Privileged Poor—lower-income students who graduate from boarding, day, and preparatory high schools—and the Doubly Disadvantaged—lower-income undergraduates who graduate from public, typically distressed high schools. Drawing on interviews with 103 undergraduates and two years of observing everyday life at an elite university, Jack interrogates the social and personal costs of exclusion that have implications for undergraduates’ objective opportunities and their social well-being.

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DEI: Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Speakers
Diversifying Your WorkforceInclusion Has More Than One Setting

How do you and your company think about diversity recruitment and, equally important, the question of retention? What are you looking for when you screen appicants? In this talk, Anthony Jack helps corporate audiences understand not only what happens to students on campus before they submit their resumes and cover letters to employers, but also the larger social inequalities that make them look different from their wealthier applicants. Jack shows that in the same way that schools must look at how students don’t simply assimilate at the moment of entry, companies must also examine taken-for-granted policies that privilege those from money, and place undue burdens on employees from nontraditional backgrounds.

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