Can Adolescents Acquire Cultural Capital Through Social Capital Access and Exposure? Longitudinal Experimental Evidence of the Impact of Ties to College-Educated Adults

36 Pages Posted: 16 Jun 2021 Last revised: 4 Feb 2022

See all articles by S. Michael Gaddis

S. Michael Gaddis

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Department of Sociology; NWEA; University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - California Center for Population Research

Joseph Murphy

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Department of Sociology

Date Written: February 2, 2022

Abstract

Scholarly debate focuses on whether cultural capital reproduces existing inequalities or provides a path to upward mobility. Most research, however, focuses only on cross-sectional associations and is unclear about how disadvantaged adolescents can increase their amounts of cultural capital. Traditionally, most adolescents’ interactions with adults occur across two axes of socialization: families and schools. Families provide opportunities to increase cultural capital while schools value and reward cultural capital. Thus, if adolescents do not obtain cultural capital through their families, they may be at a significant disadvantage when navigating the education system. We hypothesize that adolescents may be able to increase cultural capital through valuable social capital access and exposure – their ties to and meeting frequency with other important adults with knowledge of the education system. We investigate this topic using experimental longitudinal data on mentoring relationships. We find that high levels of social capital access and exposure positively affect cultural capital, but only for adolescents with highly educated parents. Our findings suggest that cultural capital may not be an engine of social mobility if adolescents from low-SES households cannot acquire or increase their cultural capital.

Keywords: cultural capital, social capital, educational inequality, socioeconomic status

JEL Classification: I24

Suggested Citation

Gaddis, S. Michael and Murphy, Joseph, Can Adolescents Acquire Cultural Capital Through Social Capital Access and Exposure? Longitudinal Experimental Evidence of the Impact of Ties to College-Educated Adults (February 2, 2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3863440 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3863440

S. Michael Gaddis (Contact Author)

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Department of Sociology ( email )

405 Hilgard Avenue
Box 951361
Los Angeles, CA 90095
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NWEA ( email )

121 NW Everett Street
Portland, OR 97209
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University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - California Center for Population Research ( email )

337 Charles E Young Dr E
Los Angeles, CA 90095
United States

Joseph Murphy

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Department of Sociology ( email )

405 Hilgard Avenue
Box 951361
Los Angeles, CA 90095
United States

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