Framing the Future

Revisiting the Place of Educational Expectations in Status Attainment

Published in: Social Forces, v. 88, no. 5, July 2010, p. 2027-2052

Posted on RAND.org on July 01, 2010

by Robert Bozick, Karl Alexander, Doris R. Entwisle, Susan L. Dauber

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This study revisits the Wisconsin model of status attainment from a life course developmental perspective. Fixed-effects regression analyses lend strong support to the Wisconsin framework's core proposition that academic performance and significant others' influence shape educational expectations. However, investigating the process of expectation formation back to the elementary grades yields insights not evident when analyses are limited to the high school years: (1. many youth consistently expect to attend college from as early as fourth grade; (2. the expectations of middle- and low-SES youth are less stable, and across years the preponderance of their exposure to socialization influences mitigates against sustained college ambitions; (3. long-term stable expectations are more efficacious in forecasting college enrollment than are changing, volatile expectations. As anticipated in the Wisconsin framework, family- and school-based socialization processes indeed contribute to social reproduction through children's educational expectations, but the process starts much earlier and includes dynamics outside the scope of the original status attainment studies.

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