Wealth Strain’s Role in Generating Educational Inequality: Theory, Mechanisms, and Effects
Bancroft, Amanda N.
Lopez Turley, Ruth
Doctor of Philosophy
Wealth predicts important social phenomena, from health outcomes, to educational attainment, to property ownership. Sociologists have addressed wealth in empirical work, but the use of wealth measures is limited by current data collection practices and potential inaccuracies in such data (Spilerman 2000; Killewald 2013; Pfeffer 2014). The first chapter of this project focuses on wealth as it exists in the literature and what it has brought to the field (such greater predictive power than typical SES dummy measures, as well as intergenerational analysis). I argue for the importance of wealth data for understanding intergenerational inequality, especially for sociologists of education and those within education RPPs. Chapter two attends to wealth strain, factors that preclude families from generating wealth. Using interviews of 66 high school seniors in a high-poverty, majority-minority district, I find that families deal with variety of types of strain, and that strain has an impact on where students decide to attend school. Specifically, I find that strain is understood and acted upon differently based on student gender. Young men view postsecondary as a means to a financial end for their families and aim to complete programs more quickly in order to begin making money to support them. Young women, on the other hand, are more likely to be tied to their families through care and emotion work and tend to enroll in programs close to home in order to continue this work. Chapter 3 uses county tax assessor data, combined with student level data, to predict postsecondary selectivity for a sample of college enrollees in 2015 and 2016. I find that non-white households must acquire more housing wealth to attain the same level of college selectivity as their white peers. I also find higher selectivity outcomes for 2016 graduates, suggesting at least a partial effect of standardized college advising throughout the district, which was received by 2016 graduates, but not 2015 graduates. Findings suggest racial and socioeconomic differences in the return on investment in home equity, the persistence of racialized valuation of housing, and hint at the importance of wealth for postsecondary outcomes.
Sociology; Education; Postsecondary; Wealth; Race