Document Type


Publication Date

March 2014

Publication Title

Pacific Sociological Association 85th Annual Meeting


Educational Sociology | Higher Education | Inequality and Stratification


Both class and racial status matter for establishing connections within a university setting and peer groups exert a heavy influence on the thoughts and actions of students (Flores-Gonzalez 2002). This research assesses socialization patterns across these demographic cleavages, in part by showing how students encounter and react to the dominant culture of exclusivity at an elite, private university. Recent quantitative research has evidenced the undergraduate experience as the “great equalizer,” by showing that the effects of class background across five measures disappear for students who attain a Bachelor’s degree (Torche 2011). However, if disadvantaged students are unable to fit in socially, they may be less likely to benefit from the unique network opportunities offered by a highly selective university. This work examines how class and racial/ethnic status matter for forming important social bonds at a highly selective university. When it comes to social life, I show that upper-income students are by far the most advantaged at this university. However, lower-income students who have experienced university scaffolding programs display similar social ease. Middle and low-income students who have not experienced institutional preparation portray a less sanguine experience.