Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

American Sociological Association Annual Meeting


Educational Sociology | Sociology


Using the classic triadic model of class (lower, middle and upper), this paper explores how a students’ class-based cultural capital relates to their conceptualization and development of academic efficacy. Academic efficacy refers to the ability, not only of a student to think positively about their academic selves, but also to have and carry out plans that support their academic selves. Academic efficacy is positively associated with a myriad of student outcomes (Zajacova, Lynch and Espenshade 2005; Lent, Brown and Hackett 2000; Alfaro, Umaña-Taylor and Bámaca 2006). The findings, based on in-depth interviews with 44 students at a highly selective private university, reveal that, compared to upper-class students, who predominantly reported high academic efficacy, the orientations among non-elite students were not as great. Findings suggest that policy makers should be paying attention not only to the experiences of lower-class students, but also to the difficulties unique to middle-class students at an elite university.