Families and Financial Support: Comparing Black and Asian American College Students

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Sociological Perspectives




Although many recognize that families shape the likelihood of getting into college, few examine variation in families’ involvement during college or its implications for sustaining inequalities. Using interviews with 51 Black and 61 Asian American college students, our analysis reveals that class and race jointly shape students’ perceptions of the financial assistance that they receive from and give to family—whether in the short term (during college) or their plans for the long term (post-college). Advantaged students across race receive more and provide less assistance than disadvantaged students. Both disadvantaged Black and Asian American students share future intentions of support, but only disadvantaged Black students give their families money during college. Race and class affect students’ framing of family and designation of the particular family members (whether parents, siblings, extended kin, or fictive kin) included in these exchanges. Lastly, we analyze the ways these different forms of assistance shape students’ college struggles; Black students experience the most strain due to their working and giving back during college. Drawing on and developing theories addressing the models and practices of familial diversity, this paper shows how class and race intersect to shape family assistance and its consequences for the persistence of inequality.


class, family, gender, higher education, qualitative methodology, race


Sociology and Interdisciplinary Social Sciences