Head of the Class: Black/White Inequality, Cultural and Social Capital, and High School Math Achievement
Investigate the role of cultural and social capital in generating the achievement disparity between Blacks and Whites.
Journal Name or Institutional Affiliation:
Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association Annual Meeting
- The analyses reveal striking inequalities in achievement between Black and White middle class students, which are partially but not fully explained by six distinct types of social and cultural capital.
- Overall, White students possess more social and cultural capital than Black students.
- Contrary to predictions, Black middle and upper class students score lower than White poor and working class students
- Social capital does not explains as much of the variation in math achievement scores as cultural capital but the addition of social capital does reduce the race and class combination effects on the disparity in test scores.
- Institutional cultural capital appears to be the most important capital variable, increasing a student's test score by a little over 2 points for every one point increase on the scale.
- School level variables, with the exception of urbanicity and 20-75% minority composition, prove to be extremely important in the achievement gap.
- The greater percentage of students attending a school on free or reduced lunch, the lower a student's scores, from 3 to nearly 5 points lower, when compared to a student attending a school that has fewer than 20% of its students on free or reduced lunch.
- A student attending a school with greater than 75% minority population scores nearly 3 points lower on the math achievement test than a student attending a school with less than 20% minority population.
- School level variables, gender, cultural capital, and race/class combinations contribute to the disparity in the Black-White mathematics achievement gap.
- Schools play a role in reproducing White middle class values as the norm for society, as suggested by Bourdieu. However, are the White middle class norms more White or more middle class?
- Disparities in the amounts of wealth possessed by families of, the types of neighborhoods occupied by, and the types of schools attended by students in the Black middle and upper class may explain why these students have less social and cultural capital.
Academic Achievement, Achievement Gap, Cultural Capital, High School, Math, SES Composition, Social Capital, Tracking
Secondary Survey Data
Method of Analysis:
Unit of Analysis:
- Uses the Education Longitudinal Study (ELS:2002:2004) Restricted Data.
- Uses a sample of 4,592 students coming from two waves of the dataset: 10th grade students in 2002 and follow up of these students when they were 12th graders in 2004.
- Analyzes Black and White students. Mixed races not included in the sample.
- Performs OLS regressions of mathematics achievement on the four race and class combinations (White middle and upper class, Black middle and upper class, White working class and poor students, Black working class and poor students.
- DV: Math achievement in 12th grade (IRT scores).
- IV: Cultural capital (institutional, embodied and objectified), social capital variables (information channels, intergenerational closure, obligation (parents giving and receiving favors), quality of parent-child relationship.
Controls: Gender, family compositional variables (student living with both biological parents, etc), school level variables (school sector, academic tracking, urbanicity, school's poverty level (% students enrolled in the free/reduced lunch program, school's percent minority.
- The study also investigates whether Black and White students within the same social class possess similar or disparate amounts of social and cultural capital. Since differences between classes do not fully explain the racial disparity in academic achievement, it is important to compare Black and White students within the same class.
- The intersection of class and race in the present study is important because neither class nor race alone provide complete explanations for the Black-White achievement gap.