Multiple Pathways to Socioeconomic Mobility

Project: Research project

Project Details


My dissertation is a natural continuation of my graduate research to date. Leveraging my prior findings
regarding the importance of students’ beliefs about upward mobility, the proposed research will examine whether
education systems that orient students solely towards attending college contribute to socioeconomic disparities in
achievement by ignoring the psychological needs of many low-SES and minority students. Specifically, because of
the predominant Western belief that the only path to a successful future is through college, I propose that
underachieving low-SES students—who are unlikely to graduate from college—may come to believe that upward
mobility is unattainable for them, thereby hindering their academic motivation and subsequent behaviors. My
dissertation therefore outlines an experimental field intervention designed to causally test whether compared to
traditional college-centric social policies and interventions, approaches that emphasize the financial utility of both
college and alternative pathways (e.g., vocational school) can boost academic motivation and achievement among
underachieving low-SES students by enhancing their beliefs regarding their prospects for upward mobility. This
project therefore proposes both a proximate structural cause (a pervasive college-only approach to education) and a
mediating self-oriented psychological mechanism (beliefs about mobility) through which the current education
system may contribute to socioeconomic and racial inequalities in educational attainment, and also outlines and tests
a simple, theory-based intervention to address this issue. The need to understand how and why SES disparities
persist in education is also very timely topic for both the psychological and diversity science communities, with the
American Psychological Association, for example, recently creating a multidisciplinary Office on Socioeconomic
Status, dedicated in large part to promoting the scientific understanding of the role of SES in education.
Effective start/end date11/21/165/20/18


  • American Psychological Association (Agmt 12/19/2016)


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