This paper, written for the 2013−2014 Symposium of the Indiana Journal of Law and Social Equality, expands on my research showing that women who are graduates of elite institutions have lower labor market activity than their counterparts who are graduates of non-selective institutions. I provide new statistics on the relation between status of undergraduate institution and family background, likelihood of earning a professional or graduate degree, earnings, and trends in opting out. These data show that the gap in labor market activity on the basis of educational status was largely unchanged between 2003 and 2010 and that graduation from an elite post-baccalaureate program does not eliminate the pay gap between graduates of elite and non-selective institutions.

I discuss what the greater opting out of women with elite education implies for social inequality on two dimensions: whether increased workplace flexibility would lead to greater retention of women in high-profile careers and competition for limited slots in elite institutions. Because graduates of elite institutions have preferred workplace options and also report not working because they do not need to work, enhanced workplace flexibility is not likely to increase retention. Women graduates of elite institutions who opt out of the labor market displace someone else who may have used their degree to stay in the labor market and have more time to support enrichment activities for their children, further contributing to inter-generational inequality.