Date of Award

2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Sociology

First Advisor

Camille Z. Charles

Abstract

This doctoral dissertation is a study of Latinos at elite colleges and universities. I compare Latino students among themselves across multiple lines of difference — including race, socioeconomic status, generational status, and gender — in order to understand how Latino students’ demographic characteristics, financial situations, other pre-college experiences, and institutional attributes affect Latino students’ academic performance, identity, and physical and emotional health.

I perform univariate, bivariate, and multivariate analyses on the National Longitudinal Survey of Freshmen (NLSF), a five-wave longitudinal survey that follows a cohort of 3,924 randomly selected students among the 1999 incoming freshman classes at 28 selective institutions of higher education.

My results suggest that all Latinos do not experience similar outcomes in these environs. Among Latinos from wealthier backgrounds, the culture of affluence actually proved dangerous to students’ independence, their mental health, and, by extension, their academic performance. But poorer Latino students’ health, happiness, and studies suffer as a direct result of the financial burdens they and their families face as they struggle to pay for their education and to help support themselves and their families. Black Latinos were more likely to feel victimized on campus, and to endure higher rates of depression as a result. Mixed-race and middle-class Latinos seemed to find the best, most even-keeled minority path of social mobility at elite colleges and universities.

These results lend credence to the hypothesis that elite colleges and universities are institutions that maintain existing systems of social stratification and enact their reifying processes, thereby conferring relative advantages on those who are already systemically advantaged. These results also support further inquiry into “minority paths to mobility,” or research that examines the ways in which minorities may attain social mobility without following older, more traditional paths that require them to lose their culture in order to “assimilate” into the mainstream.

Available for download on Monday, January 13, 2020

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