Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Embargo Period

9-1-2017

Degree Program

Sociology

Degree Type

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Year Degree Awarded

2017

Month Degree Awarded

September

Advisor Name

Naomi Gerstel

Abstract

Drawing on intensive interviews with 61 Asian American undergraduates from diverse class and ethnic backgrounds, this paper investigates the relationship between class, family involvement, and student success. I assess three hypotheses derived from the literature. First, social reproduction theorists suggest that parents from advantaged class backgrounds provide more support—economic and cultural capital—to their children than parents from disadvantaged class backgrounds, which leads to greater success for these advantaged offspring. Second, some research challenges this view, arguing instead that class does not impact students’ receipt of support or their resulting success. Third, some now suggest that larger amounts of support may undermine success. Employing a trichotomous class design and model of family that includes parents and non-parents, analysis of the interviews reveal that students from advantaged class backgrounds do receive far more economic as well as cultural capital than students from disadvantaged class backgrounds. Yet, how the receipt of that capital impacts student success yields mixed results. Quantitative analysis reveals that the receipt of large amounts of various forms of capital had little or no impact or a slightly negative impact on students’ GPAs. Analysis of the intensive interviews, however, suggests the provision of capital created substantially less stress and struggle for students as they navigated the college environment. These findings challenge popular stereotypes concerning Asian Americans, highlight the complexity of class, and call for broader definitions of family and a reconceptualization of “success”.

First Advisor

C.N. Le

Second Advisor

Jennifer Lundquist

Third Advisor

Jennifer Lundquist

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