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David J. Harding photo

Neighborhood Cultural Heterogeneity, College Goals, and College Enrollment

Publication Abstract

Download PDF versionHarding, David J. 2009. "Neighborhood Cultural Heterogeneity, College Goals, and College Enrollment." PSC Research Report No. 09-682. July 2009.

The literature on neighborhood effects on education theorizes that neighborhood cultural context is an important mechanism generating such effects. However, explanations that rely on subcultural theories, such as oppositional culture, have met with considerable criticism on empirical grounds, and no alternative account of the cultural context of disadvantaged neighborhoods has been developed. This paper applies the concept of neighborhood cultural heterogeneity, defined as the presence of a wide array of competing and conflicting cultural models, to understand neighborhood effects on college enrollment. Using survey data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, this paper shows that disadvantaged neighborhoods exhibit greater heterogeneity in college goals and that adolescents in more heterogeneous neighborhoods are more likely to change educational goals over time and are less likely to act in concert with the college goals that they articulate.

Country of focus: United States of America.

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