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The ideology of meritocracy and the power of wealth: School selection and the reproduction of race and class inequality

Опубликовано на портале: 19-05-2004
2001
Организация: Northeastern University
Подтип: PhD
Тематические разделы: Социология, Экономическая социология, Социальная стратификация

Aннотация:
This dissertation examines the interconnections between race, wealth inequality, and ideology in the decision making-processes of how black and white parents choose elementary and secondary schools for their children in the United States.


This dissertation examines the interconnections between race, wealth inequality, and ideology in the decision making-processes of how black and white parents choose elementary and secondary schools for their children in the United States. In-depth interviews with 182 families in three cities were conducted. Parents were asked about their assets, income, and decision making about how they choose the schools that they do for their children. The ways in which white and black parents navigate the educational arena for their children and how they make sense of their decisions in light of popular beliefs about meritocracy, individualism, and the “American Dream” are explored. Research findings indicate that, due in large part to lack of assets and structured racial inequality, some parents are constrained in ways that make it impossible for them to acquire advantageous educational environments for their children. Other parents are privileged, through the ownership of wealth and advantages of race, to be able leverage their assets to situate their children in excellent schools. Families who can “choose the best” are disproportionately white, and families who are “stuck” with inadequate schooling are disproportionately black. Regardless of structured class status white and black parents believe in ideologies of meritocracy, opportunity, and the American Dream. They rely on these ideologies to explain and justify their circumstances as the result of hard work or lack-of-it. The structure of wealth inequality, which restricts educational opportunity in systematic ways, stands in direct contradiction to dominant ideological beliefs because assets almost always originate from the receipt of enabling intergenerational transmissions of private wealth, and thus are usually not earned through individual achievement. Yet the two—structured asset inequality and dominant ideology—interact together in family decision making about children's education. This dissertation argues that the process of school selection, when interlocking with historically patterned wealth inequality and widely believed dominant ideologies as it currently is, can be seen as one of the mechanisms through which race and class stratification are reproduced in the contemporary United States.

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