Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Cultivating mobility: Social pathways to educational attainment
by Perez-Felkner, Lara Cristina, Ph.D., The University of Chicago, 2009, 228; 3362464
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation investigates the social mechanisms undergirding the pathways of working class, predominantly Latino adolescents pursuing post-secondary educational aspirations. In so doing, this study contributes to the study of how social capital operates within organizations toward educational outcomes. Between 2005 and 2008, I collected multi-method case study data in a Chicago charter school, using ethnographic fieldwork, interviews, and two waves of survey data collection. This unique dataset was designed to enable comparisons between these students and their local and national peers, using matched measures from Chicago Public School data and the NCES Educational Longitudinal Survey of Youth, including important psychometric measures, such as a modified Rosenberg self-esteem scale, Phinney's Multiethnic Identity Measure, and measures of self-esteem and well-being. This research responds to the dominant theoretical explanations for the ethno-racial gap in educational attainment: educational and socioeconomic resource shortages, cultural resistance and oppositional culture, stereotype threat and self-schemas, social capital and social networks, and ethnic identity development.

Employing these longitudinal and multiple methods, this study presents a framework for understanding the students' post-secondary pathways through a social lens. The results demonstrate the means by which institutional expectations promote high educational aspirations. The data explains how social ties within the school population might provide protective effects that further both the youths' aspirations and actual attainment. For those students who change their ambitions or fail to realize their expectations, the longitudinal data enables an explanation of the mechanisms behind the reasons why their dreams "just don't work out."

The study does not demonstrate any evidence for experience of stereotype threat while the students are in high school; it does however find explanations at the school culture level to anticipate such problems, which have varying effects at the individual level. Later waves of survey, interview, and school enrollment data demonstrate that matriculation and retention in these and other four-year colleges present more complicated and less linear trajectories.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Taub, Richard P.
Commitee:
School: The University of Chicago
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: DAI-A 70/06, Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Educational sociology, Social psychology, Social studies education, Individual & family studies
Keywords: Educational gap, Human development, Latino, Latino youth, Racial and ethnic identity, School culture, Social capital, Social context of education
Publication Number: 3362464
ISBN: 9781109213904
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