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Author ORCID Identifier


Campus-Only Access for Five (5) Years

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Naomi Gerstel

Second Advisor

Anthony Paik

Third Advisor

Mark Pachucki

Fourth Advisor

Youngmin Yi

Fifth Advisor

Ryan Wells

Subject Categories

Demography, Population, and Ecology | Educational Sociology | Family, Life Course, and Society | Inequality and Stratification


In the context of rising economic inequality, recent decades have seen increases in college enrollment. Yet, graduation rates are low, both at four-year colleges, and especially at two-year colleges. Those unfamiliar with higher education often assume that colleges and universities will guide and support students to graduation, but this is often not the case. In fact, higher education institutions increasingly rely on students’ parents to not only pay for college costs, but also provide advice and other non-tangible support. But access to such support is not evenly distributed, and this may have an impact on college outcomes. In three interrelated papers, this dissertation investigated race, gender, and social class variation in the types and amounts of support college students receive from their parents. Furthermore, the project asked to what extent inequality in parental relationships contributes to disparities in college completion. The data were from the Transition into Adulthood Supplement to the Panel Study of Income Dynamics.

The first paper examined race and gender differences in college students’ receipt of companionship and college-relevant advice from their mothers and fathers. There was a pattern of gender homophily for companionship, with sons spending more time with fathers and daughters spending more time with mothers. Results also showed significant and complex patterning of parental advice and companionship by race. The second paper considered social class and race variation in parents’ material support of college students through co-residence and direct financial assistance. Social class was more salient than race in predicting material support: lower-income and first-generation college students were more likely to live with parents during college, while their class-advantaged peers were more likely to be financially supported by family while living away from home. The third paper asked whether the type and quantity of parental support students received predicted their chances of graduating. Both material support and college-relevant advice were associated with bachelor’s, but not associate, degree completion in ways that further advantaged students with college-educated parents. Taken together, this dissertation shows that the work of parenting continues into college for many families and contributes to inequality in degree completion.


Available for download on Friday, September 01, 2023