Date of Award

Spring 5-17-2010

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Education

First Advisor

Laura W. Perna

Second Advisor

Marybeth Gasman

Third Advisor

Marvin Titus

Abstract

Although access to a postsecondary education has increased exponentially since 1970, access to a bachelor’s degree has not grown as swiftly. National data highlight improvements in the aggregate, but disguise important disparities in completion across groups. Specifically, these data mask inequality in bachelor’s degree attainment across and within groups defined by gender, ethnicity/race, and socioeconomic status.

Although predictive models have shed light on disparities in completion with respect to gender, ethnicity/race, and socioeconomic status, few predictive models incorporate the interaction of these demographic constructs. Since gaps in completion persist both within and across groups, additional consideration of interactions may prove helpful for retention efforts.

Using Tinto’s conceptual model of student departure, this dissertation examines a model of bachelor’s degree completion, focusing on the interaction of gender, ethnicity/race, and socioeconomic status. Framed by critical race feminist theory, this research acknowledges variance in privilege and marginalization by gender, ethnicity/race, and socioeconomic status, as well as the interaction of these characteristics. Logistic regression analyses are used to identify likelihood of degree completion within six years using the Beginning Postsecondary Students data set.

Descriptive analyses show that gender, ethnicity/race, socioeconomic status groups are related to bachelor’s degree completion and suggest that these variables may interact to predict attainment. None of the interactions were statistically significant in the logistic regression analyses. This research highlights differences in conceptual and statistical interactions, and how additional research may be needed theoretically and empirically. Implications for research incorporating a critical race feminist approach and interactions are also presented.