Social Reproduction Versus Social Mobility: The Influence of Parents' Education Levels on Undergraduates' Work Values and Career Aspirations Open Access

Day, Elizabeth Alter (2016)

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This study explores the relationship between socioeconomic status and undergraduates' values and aspirations in the context of career goals. I conducted twenty semi-structured, in-depth interviews with both first-generation college students and non first-generation college students at Emory University, a highly ranked, private university in the southeast United States. Specifically, I looked at how parents' education levels relate to undergraduates' work values, career aspirations, and the process of discovering and working toward these career goals. I found that students at Emory, regardless of parent's education levels, share some similar work values and career aspirations. However, first-generation college students and non first-generation college students differ in how they discuss these topics, as well as in the resources and support systems they use to reach their career goals. Referencing Bourdieu's social reproduction theory, DiMaggio's social mobility theory, and corresponding research, I argue that my findings reflect the subtle differences between first-generation college students and non first-generation college students as one group is working to achieve the social status that the other group has inherited from their parents.

Table of Contents

I. Introduction...1

II. Theoretical Framework and Empirical Research Background...1

Theoretical Framework...1

Empirical Research Background...4

III. Methods...13



Data Analysis...15

IV. Results...16

Career Aspirations...16

Work Values...19

Interest and Enjoyment...19

Giving Back...21

The Importance of Money...25

Career Discovery Process...30

How Decision Are Made...30

Utilizing Resources...34

VI. Discussion...40

VII. References...47

VIII. Appendices...50

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