Cultural Capital and Educational Inequality: A Counterfactual Analysis

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We use NLSY79 data and a counterfactual approach to test the macro-level implications of cultural reproduction and cultural mobility theory. Our counterfactual analyses show that the observed socioeconomic gradient in children’s educational attainment in the NLSY79 data would be smaller if cultural capital was more equally distributed between children whose parents have low or high socioeconomic status (SES), respectively. They also show that hypothetically increasing cultural capital among low-SES parents would lead to a larger reduction in the socioeconomic gradient in educational attainment than reducing it among high-SES parents. These findings are consistent with cultural mobility theory (which argues that low-SES children have a higher return to cultural capital than high-SES children) but not with cultural reproduction theory (which argues that low-SES children have a lower return to cultural capital). Our analysis contributes to existing research by demonstrating that the unequal distribution of cultural capital shapes educational inequality at the macro level.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSociological Science
Volume5
Pages (from-to)775-795
ISSN2330-6696
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018

    Research areas

  • Faculty of Social Sciences - cultural capital, educational inequality, cultural reproduction, cultural mobility, counterfactual analysis, Bourdieu

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