Palardy, Gregory J.
High School Socioeconomic Composition and College Choice: Multilevel Mediation Via Organizational Habitus, School, Practices, Peer and Staff Attitudes
University of California, Riverside
1) Is high school socioeconomic composition (SEC) predictive of students’ college choice?
2) Does SEC have a direct effect on college choice and indirect effects mediated by college choice organizational habitus (CCOH) related school practices and peer, family, and staff attitudes?
3) To what degree do direct and indirect effects of SEC depend on student and school input characteristics?
Journal Name or Institutional Affiliation:
School Effectiveness and School Improvement
Vol. 26, No. 3, Pp. 329-353
- 85% of the 2002 10th graders who attended a high-SEC school were enrolled in college in the fall of 2004, directly after their expected graduation date, compared to 53% who attended a low-SEC school.
- Students in high-SEC enrolled in selective colleges at approximately 4 times the rate of their low SEC counterparts.
- Students attending low-SEC schools had GPAs 0.54 lower and standard achievement test scores 1 standard deviation lower than students who attended high-SEC schools.
- Students attending low-SEC schools had family and SEC backgrounds suggestive of educational disadvantage.
- The average student SEC at a low-SEC school is approximately 3 standard deviations lower than at high-SEC schools, and more than double the proportion of students are from underrepresented racial groups.
- Low-SEC schools are three times more likely to be located in rural area, 5 times more likely to be small sized and have 18% lower teacher salaries.
- SEC has a significant total effect on college choice.
- 47% of the total effect on of SEC flows directly to CCOH, the other 53% is mediated by CCOH.
- At baseline, college prep curriculum, academic mission, homework emphasis, peer attitudes and staff attitudes were significant CCOH mediators. Family attitudes were not significant.
- After controlling for student inputs (students’ family and academic background and whether they had a need for and access to college financial aid), peer and staff attitudes remained statistically significant mediators of the SEC effect on college choice.
- Likewise, after controlling for school inputs, peer and staff attitudes remained statistically significant mediators of the SEC effect on college choice.
Journal Article Empirical Research
College, Peer Effects, SES Composition, School Organization
Secondary Survey Data
Method of Analysis:
High school sophomores in America in 2002
Unit of Analysis:
- This paper utilizes the theory of college choice organizational habitus(CCOH), which can be described as the collective sensibilities, preferences, and values of the school regarding postsecondary education. The theory of CCOH suggests that normative structures and collective attitudes regarding college choice are at least partially born out of the socioeconomic-based school culture related to the value of a college degree and the feasibility of earning one.
- Education Longitudinal Study of 2002. Based on the data from 15,325 tenth grade students throughout 752 public and private schools. This study focused on 10,151 students in 580 public schools.
- DV: College choice (4-point ordinal outcome based on the selectivity of the post-secondary institution the student enrolls in directly after high school.
- IVs: college choice organizational habitus, school inputs, student postsecondary controls, and student background controls.
- Socioeconomic composition and six measures of college choice organizational habitus are the central independent variables of this study. Socioeconomic composition (SEC) is the school mean of students’ SES, which was measured in both 2002 and 2004, when students were in 10th and 12th grades. The average of the 2002 and 2004 measures was used to provide an estimate of SEC during the period of this study.
- The six measures of CCOH are organized into two classes based on the work of McDonough (1997), normative structures and collective attitudes about college choice. Normative structures are essentially school practices and processes that imbue the organizational perception of the values and feasibility of various postsecondary options. The specific normative structures used in this study are college prep curriculum, homework emphasis, and academic mission. College prep curriculum is an ordinal measure on an 8-point scale indicating the highest level math course a student took during high school. Because college preparatory math is generally not required by states in America for high school graduation, but 2 to 4 years is required for admission to many 4-year colleges and almost all selective colleges, this variable is considered a proxy measure for a school-wide curriculum focusing on college prep course taking. Academic mission is a factor score of principal-reported items on the degree to which teachers, counselors, and students focus on academics. Homework emphasis is the mean number of hours students report spending on homework per week.
- Student selection into schools is non-random and student inputs differ substantially across the sample schools.
- CCOH is an abstract and theoretic construct; as such, it is difficult, if not impossible, to measure directly. To investigate such constructs using quantitative methods, one must rely on proxy measures and latent variables, which arguably measure something more concrete than CCOH.
Links high school composition and its impacts on college choice.