American Journal of Cultural Sociology

, Volume 5, Issue 1–2, pp 154–180 | Cite as

“I’m not gonna be another statistic”: The imagined futures of former foster youth

Original Article


This article reports results from a qualitative study of former foster youth attending a 4-year university, focusing on the process by which these students construct and communicate imagined futures. Drawing on 30 in-depth interviews and sixteen months of participant observation at an on-campus support program, this study empirically illustrates how aspirations can be constructed through a complex process that involves individual biography, cultural notions of morality, and imagination. I argue that analysis of former foster youths’ imagined futures reveals how ambitious educational and professional aspirations serve as moral assertions of identity that separate this group from the negative stereotypes they feel have been projected onto them. Finally, I show how support programs for marginalized populations are critical not just for the resources they provide, but also for their role in expanding worldviews.


former foster youth imagined futures optimism agentic capacity life trajectory 


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of California DavisDavisUSA

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