Qualitative Sociology

, Volume 28, Issue 4, pp 419–443 | Cite as

The Interactive Relationship Between Class Identity and the College Experience: The Case of Lower Income Students

  • Elizabeth AriesEmail author
  • Maynard Seider


To probe the role that college context plays in influencing the class-based aspects of identity for lower income students, we interviewed 30 lower income students, 15 from an elite college and 15 from a state college. Significant disparities of wealth between students at the elite college heightened awareness of class, and led to feelings of intimidation, discomfort, inadequacy, deficiency, exclusion, and powerlessness among lower income students, feelings that were less prevalent among state college students. Students at both colleges acquired new forms of cultural capital and coped with class-based discontinuities between who they were before college and who they were becoming, but these issues became heightened for the elite college students.


social class identity higher education cultural capital 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyAmherst CollegeAmherst
  2. 2.Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work, MassachusettsCollege of Liberal ArtsNorth Adams

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