Schooling as a Social Process: Creation and Consequence of Adolescent Society in American High Schools


Malacame, Timothy (2015). Schooling as a Social Process: Creation and Consequence of Adolescent Society in American High Schools.


This dissertation examines schooling as a social process. The individual chapters do not focus only on social relationships and their effects, but each makes a contribution to our understanding of education as situated within a social space. Chapter 1 looks at friendship formation; Chapter 2 at how existing popularity networks affect behavior in subsequent periods; and Chapter 3 at the association between student effort and academic success and how this relationship would appear to students with peers at different points on the socioeconomic and effort spectrum. Their combined findings reaffirm the importance of some social processes and structures while calling into question the assumed centrality of others. Chapter 1 examines inter-group friendship formation. It expands on previous research that focused primarily on inter-racial friendships to include friendships between students from different socioeconomic classes. Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, it models the number of friendship nominations from outside a respondents own social group as a function of both the compositional characteristics of the school and the individual characteristics and behaviors of the respondent. It finds that while demographic characteristics of a student's school are the strongest predictor of inter-group interaction, participation in sports and the arts is consistently and positively related to students nominating friends different from themselves. It also finds that while inter-racial and inter-SES friendship patterns are often similar, they do differ in key ways and that previous research on inter-racial friendships cannot simply stand in for research on other forms of relationships as conceptions of diversity expand. Chapter 2 looks at the relationship of social popularity structures and student behavior in American high schools. It focus on three potential mechanisms by which students could evaluate the social status of the behaviors in question. First, they could use behavioral prevalence a proxy for desirability. Second, students may imitate the behavior of the most popular individuals within their network. Third, students may mentally estimate a behavior's social benefit by comparing the social status of students who participate in the activity to that of those who do not. Chapter 2 seeks to clarify the importance of these mechanisms. I find that – contrary to popular belief and the assumption of many network interventions – socially central students do not appear to exert a disproportionate influence on the behavior of their peers in subsequent periods. Chapter 3 uses data from the National Educational Longitudinal Study of 1988 and the Educational Longitudinal Study of 2002 to examine the association between high school academic effort and the probability of entering a four-year college. It focuses on whether this relationship differs for students from different socioeconomic backgrounds and whether the relationship has changed in the time between the two surveys. At the macro-level, the similarity in outcomes for students who exert similar effort but come from different SES groups can be seen as a measure of the meritocracy of the educational system. At the micro-level, developing a fine-grained understanding of the association between high school effort and the probability of college entry allows us to infer apparent returns to effort from the point of view of particular student groups. I find that high effort is consistently associated with academic success. A one standard deviation change in effort affects the predicted log odds of entering a four year college as much as a three to four decile change in socioeconomic status. This average effect conceals substantial heterogeneity: effort has very different marginal effects for different SES groups at different levels of effort. Low-income students are disproportionately surrounded by low income, low effort peers, a group for whom the marginal returns to effort are relatively low. This is important for understanding education l dec sions made by these students.



Social sciences Sociology 0626:Sociology


Copyright - Copyright ProQuest, UMI Dissertations Publishing 2015 Last updated - 2016-02-11

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Book Title



Malacame, Timothy

Series Author(s)

Alexander, Jeffrey

Year Published


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Yale University

City of Publication

Ann Arbor





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