The most outstanding event in the recent evolution of higher education in developed countries has been the continuously increasing proportion of students entering higher education and, therefore, its extension to more and more inclusive groups. It seems reasonable to assume that the expansion of higher education must have facilitated access of less privileged social classes, but it is important to analyze to what extent this significant increase in higher education participation has reached all social, economic, and cultural groups. This analysis could be useful in designing a policy to help those students who have more difficulty accessing higher education. The goal in this paper is to analyze this subject thoroughly focusing especially on the level of participation of young adults in Spanish higher education controlling for economic level, parental education and occupation, and other environmental characteristics. We present a logistic model which jointly values the influence of different family and social characteristics of the individual on his/her decision to enroll in higher education. The main conclusions of the study are these: (a) There has been improvement in the equity of access to higher education. In spite of this overall improvement, about 30 per cent of the less privileged population is still underrepresented in higher education, (b) Family educational level is the most important factor in the decision to enter higher education. The weight of these educational characteristics exceeds by far the influence of family income level.

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