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Charts: Kids at selective colleges listen to Beethoven and read Lolita all day

Libby Nelson is Vox's policy editor, leading coverage of how government action and inaction shape American life. Libby has more than a decade of policy journalism experience, including at Inside Higher Ed and Politico. She joined Vox in 2014.

Can your favorite book predict your SAT score? This chart from Virgil Griffith shows how book preferences and SAT scores line up, matching Facebook data on the most popular books at a given college to that college's average SAT score for incoming freshmen:

SAT scores by book preference

It's an interesting chart (aside from the dismissive characterization of Pride and Prejudice as "chick lit") but a badly titled one. Books don't make you dumb. There's no reason why naming Their Eyes Were Watching God, a book written at an 8th-grade reading level, as a favorite book would cause you to score lower on the SAT than preferring The Giver, a book written at a sixth-grade reading level.

Like SAT scores, cultural tastes tend to correlate with race, class, and family income. And students from less educated, poorer backgrounds, often don't attend selective colleges with high average SAT scores — even if their individual SAT scores are good enough to make the cut.

Another chart from Griffith that uses the same method to match SAT scores with musical artists shows this even more clearly:

SAT scores by music preferences

The music data is a few years out of date (no way would only 17 colleges list Beyoncé as a favorite musician today), but you can see a clear pattern: hip-hop and country tend to cluster at the bottom of the SAT scale, with indie rock and pop closer to the top.

In other words, these two charts tell you a lot about the cultural background and tastes of students at highly selective colleges. It's not surprising that those tastes tend to be fairly upper middle class.

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