Fishman, Samuel H. (2019). Burning with Educational Ambition: Status Attainment in the 21st Century US.
Status attainment theory is a foundation of sociological thought on intergenerational stratification in the US. This dissertation extends sociological knowledge by assessing two of status attainment theory’s core assumptions about educational attainment. The first assumption is that educational expectations mediate the relationship between parental sociological status and educational attainment. This assumption requires a robust relationship between expectations and educational attainment. This first assumption is evaluated in the first three chapters. The second assumption is a strong relationship between parental socioeconomic status and educational attainment. The fourth chapter assesses this second assumption. By exploring these assumptions, this dissertation addresses my research agenda’s primary questions: (A) What are key mechanisms through which inequality is transmitted across generations? (B) What social characteristics buffer the negative effects of socioeconomic disadvantage? For analysis, this dissertation uses data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, which has followed adolescents (1994-1995) through the young adulthood (2007-2008). Chapters one through three suggest that educational expectations mediate the relationship between parental socioeconomic status and educational attainment. However, this relationship may be considerably weaker than status attainment research would suggest. In addition, expectations are a stronger predictor of educational attainment for adolescents with high GPAs than for adolescents with lower GPAs. Lastly, reducing measurement error in educational expectations may improve the accuracy of educational attainment models. The fourth chapter demonstrates that the relationship between parental socioeconomic status and educational attainment is not consistent across all populations in the US. Unlike other race/ethnic-nativity groups, parental education does not predict educational attainment among the children of Korean, Chinese, and Vietnamese immigrants. This chapter suggests that cultural schemas on social mobility related to ethnicity and nativity drive this pattern. In all, this dissertation extends knowledge on intergenerational stratification processes. First, the dissertation demonstrates that educational expectations mediate the association between parental socioeconomic status and educational attainment but also reveals important nuances in this relationship. Second, this dissertation contends that schemas on social mobility may buffer the negative effects of socioeconomic disadvantage on educational attainment.
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Fishman, Samuel H.
Morgan, Samuel P.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
City of Publication