Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Race and sex differences and similarities in the process of college entry

  • 52 Accesses

  • 12 Citations


This study evaluates the process of college entry for race and sex groups as predicted by an elaboration of the Blau and Duncan (1967) status attainment model. Four important observations were derived from the study. First, sex differences among blacks, which have not been previously examined, were less pronounced than sex differences among, whites. Secondly, race effects were more influential than sex in affecting the process of college entry. Thirdly, for all groups the effects of race, sex, family status origin (SES) and standardized test performance on college attendance were substantially mediated by school process variables (e.g., high school rank and curriculum), by “significant others” influences, and by student educational expectations. Fourthly, the net effects of structural background variables (e.g., SES and standardized test performance) on college attendance were much stronger for blacks (particularly for black males) than for whites.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Alexander, K. L. and Eckland, B. K. (1974). “Sex differences in the educational attainment process,”American Sociological Review 5: 668–681.

  2. Alexander, K. L. and McDill, E. L. (1976). “Selection and allocation within schools: some causes and consequences of curriculum placement,”American Sociological Review 41: 963–980.

  3. Astin, A. W. (1977). “Equal access to postsecondary education: myth or reality?”UCLA Educator 19 (Spring): 8–17.

  4. Becker, H. J. (1977).How Young People Find Career-Entry Jobs. Center for Social Organization of Schools. Report No. 241. Johns Hopkins University. Baltimore, Maryland.

  5. Blau, P. and Duncan, O. D. (1967).The American Occupational Structure. New York: John Wiley.

  6. Bowles, S. and Gintis, H. (1973). “1.Q. in the U.S. class structure,”Social Policy 3: 65–96.

  7. Brown, F. and Stent, M. (1977).Minorities in U.S. Institutions of Higher Education. New York: Praeger Publishers.

  8. Campbell, E. and Alexander, C. N. (1964). “Peer influences on adolescent educational aspirations and attainments,”American Journal of Sociology 81: 230–241.

  9. Carnoy, M. (1972).Schooling in a Corporate Society. New York: David McKay.

  10. Coleman, J. S., Blum, A. D., Sorenson, A. B. and Rossi, P. H. (1972). “White and black carrers during the first decade of labor force experience. Part I: Occupational status,”Social Science Research 1: 243–270.

  11. DeBoard, L. W., Griffin, L. J. and Claric, M. (1977). “Race and sex influences in the schooling process of rural and small town youth,”Sociology of Education 42: 85–102.

  12. Golladay, M. A. (1977).The Condition of Education. Washington, D.C.: National Center for Education Statistics.

  13. Gordon, C. (1969).Looking Ahead: Self-Conceptions. Race and family as Determinants of Adolescent Orientations to Achievement. Washington, D.C.: American Sociological Association.

  14. Gottfredson, L. S. (1978).Race and Sex Differences in Occupational Aspirations: Their Development and Consequences for Occupational Segregation. Center for Social Organization of Schools. Report No. 254. Johns Hopkins University. Baltimore, Maryland.

  15. Green, R. L. and Farguar, W. (1965). “Negro academic motivation and scholastic achievement,”Journal of Educational Psychology 56: 241–243.

  16. Hauser, R. M. (1971).Socioeconomic Background and Educational Performance. Washington, D.C.: Rose Monograph Series, American Sociological Association.

  17. Heise, D. R. (1972). “Employing nominal variables, induced variables, and block variables in path analysis,”Sociological Methods and Research 2: 147–173.

  18. Hout, M. and Morgan, W. R. (1975). “Race and sex variations in the causes of the expected attainments of high school seniors,”American Journal of Sociology 81: 364–394.

  19. Institute for the Study of Educational Policy (1976).Equal Educational Opportunity for Blacks in U.S. Higher Education: An Assessment. Washington D.C.: Institute for the Study of Educational Policy, Howard University.

  20. Kerckhoff, A. C. (1976). “The status attainment process: socialization or allocation?”Social Forces 55: 368–381.

  21. Kerckhoff, A. C. and Campbell, K. T. (1977). “Race and social status differences in the explanation of educational ambition,”Social Forces 55: 701–714.

  22. Mednick, M. T., Tangri, S. S. and Hoffman, L. W. (1975).Women and Achievement. New York: John Wiley.

  23. Middleton, L. (1979). “Enrollment of blacks doubled since 1970,”The Chronicle of Higher Education XVII (Jan.).

  24. Miller, J. L. and Erickson, M. L. (1974). “On dummy variable regression analysis,”Sociological Methods and Research 2: 409–429.

  25. Morris, L. (1979).Elusive Equality: The Status of Black Americans in Higher Education. Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press.

  26. Persell, C. H. (1977).Education and Inequality. New Jersey: The Free Press.

  27. Porter, J. N. (1974). “Race, socialization and mobility in educational and early occupational attainment,”American Sociological Review 39: 303–316.

  28. Portes, A. and Wilson, K. L. (1976). “Black white differences in educational attainment,”American Sociological Review 41: 414–431.

  29. Sewell, W. H. and Shah, V. P. (1967). “Socioeconomic status, intelligence and the attainment of higher education,”Sociology of Education 40: 559–572.

  30. Sewell, W. H., Haller, A. O. and Portes, A. (1968). “The educational and early occupational attainment process,”American Sociological Review 34: 82–92.

  31. Sewell, W. H., Haller, A. O. and Ohlendorf, G. W. (1970). “The educational and early occupational attainment process: replication and revisions,”American Sociological Review 35: 1014–1027.

  32. Sewell, W. H., Hauser, R. M. and Featherman, D. L. (1976).Schooling and Achievement in American Society. New York: Academic Press.

  33. Spurlock, L. A. (1977). “Still struggling: minorities and white colleges in the mid-seventies,”Educational Record 57(3):

  34. Thomas, G. E. (1975). “Race and Sex Effects in the Process of Educational Achievement,” Unpublished dissertation, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

  35. Thomas, G. E. (1979a). “The influence of ascription, achievement and educational expectations on black white postsecondary enrollment,”Sociological Quarterly 20 (2).

  36. Thomas, G. E. (1980). “Equality of representation of race and sex groups in higher education: institutional and program enrollment statuses,”American Educational Review Journal, Summer.

  37. Treiman, J. and Terrell, K. (1975). “Sex and the process of status attaiment: a comparison of working women and men”American Sociological Review 40: 174–200.

  38. Wilson, K. L. and Portes, A. (1975). “The educational attainment process: results from a national sample,”American Journal of Sociology 81: 343–363.

Download references

Author information

Additional information

This research was supported by the Russell Sage Foundation and the National Institute of Education. The author wishes to thank the reviewers and the following persons for their invaluable advice contributed to this document: James McPartland, Karl Alexander, Bruce Eckland, Walter Allen, Edward McDill, and Richard Cramer.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Thomas, G.E. Race and sex differences and similarities in the process of college entry. High Educ 9, 179–202 (1980). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01680433

Download citation


  • Process Variable
  • Important Observation
  • Status Origin
  • Background Variable
  • Black Male