Can Adolescents Acquire Cultural Capital Through Social Capital? The Impact of Ties to College-Educated Adults

44 Pages Posted: 16 Jun 2021 Last revised: 29 Jun 2021

See all articles by S. Michael Gaddis

S. Michael Gaddis

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

Joseph Murphy

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

Date Written: June 9, 2021

Abstract

Cultural capital is influential in determining who continues on to and succeeds in higher education. However, scholars debate whether cultural capital serves to reproduce existing inequalities or provide a path to upward mobility. Most quantitative studies focus on point-in-time correlations between cultural capital measures and educational achievement or attainment. Thus, this work is unclear on how or even if disadvantaged adolescents can significantly increase their stores of cultural capital. One potential way of providing adolescents with an opportunity to gain cultural capital is through ties to adults with high educational attainment. We investigate this topic using unique quasi-experimental longitudinal data on mentoring relationships between adolescents and adults in the Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America program. We find that only mentors with a college degree or greater have positive effects on cultural capital for adolescents. Furthermore, most of the effects of social capital on cultural capital hold only for adolescents with a parent with some college or greater. We question whether cultural capital can truly be an engine of social mobility if adolescents from low-SES households cannot obtain 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? The Impact of Ties to College-Educated Adults (June 9, 2021). 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
United States

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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