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Rethinking the Cultural Context of Schooling Decisions in Disadvantaged Neighborhoods: From Deviant Subculture to Cultural Heterogeneity

Publication Abstract

Harding, David J. 2011. "Rethinking the Cultural Context of Schooling Decisions in Disadvantaged Neighborhoods: From Deviant Subculture to Cultural Heterogeneity." Sociology of Education, 84(4): 322-339.

The literature on neighborhood effects on schooling 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 in the education literature. This study develops a new account of the cultural context of schooling decisions in disadvantaged neighborhoods based on the concept of cultural heterogeneity, defined as the presence of a wide array of competing and conflicting cultural models. It applies this concept to neighborhood effects on college enrollment. Using survey data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, this study shows that disadvantaged neighborhoods exhibit greater heterogeneity in college goals and that adolescents in more heterogeneous neighborhoods are less likely to act in concert with the college goals that they articulate.

DOI:10.1177/0038040711417008 (Full Text)

PMCID: PMC3413303. (Pub Med Central)

Country of focus: United States.

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