Title page for ETD etd-06052011-215717

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Ward, Aaryn
URN etd-06052011-215717
Title Does School Context Matter for the Low SES Student? Investigating the Causal Effects of School Context on College Enrollment
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department Sociology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Dumais, Susan Committee Chair
Grimes, Michael Committee Member
Schafer, Mark Committee Member
Slack, Tim Committee Member
Jolly, Jennifer Dean's Representative
  • college enrollment
  • school context
  • causal modeling
Date of Defense 2011-04-15
Availability unrestricted
This dissertation focuses on school context and the whether or not “good schools” matter for low SES students. Existing research and theory do not provide consistent expectations regarding the performance of low SES students in middle/high SES school environments. To untangle the relationship among socioeconomic background, the school setting, and educational outcomes, I use a large, longitudinal, nationally-representative dataset, The Education Longitudinal Survey of 2002 (ELS:2002) to analyze enrollment in postsecondary institutions, institutional selectivity, and future educational expectations. Models use weighted regression with causal effect estimators to assess a potential causal effect of “good schools” for low SES students. While analyses using a composite SES measure (education, occupation, and income) do not show a significant causal effect of middle/high SES schools on low SES students’ college enrollment, models utilizing parents’ education as a measure for social class show “good schools” to have a significant causal effect on level of postsecondary education attempted for students from lower class backgrounds. A causal effect for “good schools” also emerges when looking at the selectivity of four year postsecondary institutions.
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