How does social exposure to success affect outcomes for young people? (1 of 2)

How many black and hispanic kids will imagine themselves getting accepted to their dream schools after seeing this tweet?

I'd be willing to bet that the 8M views this video received results in a statistically significant uptick in minority applications to ivy league schools this coming year.

Since starting school myself, I've been thinking a lot about the effects of social exposure and imagination. Looking around the classroom at my peers at Harvard Business School, Kennedy School, and the Law School, I see lots of brilliant people who, despite all their differences and diversity, all share something in common: all of them imagined themselves attending Harvard before they applied.

But what gave them that imagination? What gave them the confidence to pursue the goal and ultimately apply?

Students of color consistently score lower than the national average in reading and math, a phenomenon that is persistent across states and school districts. Every time I look at Twitter, I discover yet another purported culprit deemed to be the overlooked cause behind these racial achievement gaps. Depending on which high conviction op-eds are selected for our reading pleasure by our algorithmic newsfeeds of choice, our understanding of the root causes behind disparities in racial achievement might range from geographic factors (white kids go to better schools in nicer zip codes), to the spillover cognitive effects of poverty (black and hispanic kids more often belong to families with lower incomes), to the various flavors of parenting styles and family structures between ethnic groups (tiger moms!).

I believe that there is a massive and underappreciated role being silently played by social exposure to success.


Social success exposure = knowing people who have enjoyed success across any of its many manifestations (relationships, education, career, financial)

More to come on this..