But cultural biases seem to be at work as well. Nieli highlights one of the study’s more remarkable findings: while most extracurricular activities increase your odds of admission to an elite school, holding a leadership role or winning awards in organizations like high school R.O.T.C., 4-H clubs and Future Farmers of America actually works against your chances. Consciously or unconsciously, the gatekeepers of elite education seem to incline against candidates who seem too stereotypically rural or right-wing or “Red America.”This finding is fine, though there seems to be no indication that being in 4-H has a causal relationship with getting into a school, but to expand this out into an idea that kids from red states don't go to Ivy League schools because of bias against future farmers seems patently ridiculous.
As a kid from a small rural town, I can tell you that there are simply less kids clamoring to get into Ivy League schools from where I'm from. Parents don't make it a priority, in fact they often would rather not see their kids head off to the east coast. Kids, because they haven't been around a lot of people who went to Ivy League schools, don't think about it much as an option. When they do, it is often later in the game than you would need to seriously compete for a spot. And, of course, there are lots of exceptions... I know some Ivy Leaguers who hail from the Midwest.
But what gets lost in all of this, is that rich kids get in more than poor kids. That's the real divide. No matter where you live.