The Interactive Effects of Race and Class in Educational Research: Theoretical Insights from the Work of Pierre Bourdieu

How race and class affect the life chances of young people has been an issue of central importance to social scientists (Alexander, Pallas & Holupka, 1987; Baker & Velez, 1996; Hearn, 1984, 1991; Karen, 1991a, 1991b; Pascarella, Smart & Stoeker, 1989). Race and class have been shown to influence high school experiences (McQuillan, 1998; Oakes, 1985), and the access and transition to postsecondary education (Baker & Velez, 1996; Hossler, Schmidt & Vesper, 1999; Hurtado, Inkelas, Briggs & Rhee, 1997; McDonough, 1997). We know that patterns of access to higher education have remained relatively unchanged from the mid-1970s through to the mid-1990s (Karen & Hearn, 1998); women tend to go to college at a higher rate than men do. Access to higher education for Blacks and Latinos relative to whites has declined. We have witnessed continued inequality in access for those from different income groups; low-income students are far less likely to enter college directly from high school than their middle class or affluent peers (Baker & Velez, 1996). When one examines the effects of race, class, and gender independently, important patterns of inequality are found. The evidence is clear and compelling.

What is less clear in these data is how student background variables interact with one another to shape access. Put differently, how do race and class interact to shape access to higher education? Baker and Velez, in their 1996 review of access to opportunity and postsecondary education, note that most research in this area has been "based on analyses of national longitudinal data sets of high school seniors who moved directly to college" and are often restricted to men. This research has often excluded non-traditional students and may underestimate the importance of race. More importantly, however, race and class are often conceptualized as independent of one another. Yet, Collins (1991) argues that for African-American women, identity is a "both/and" construct that encompasses both their Blackness and their femaleness (see also Jackson, 1998). Similarly, I argue here that we need to examine the both/and nature of race and class; what is the layered or overlapping effect of these two important variables on access to higher education? Baker & Velez (1996) call for new avenues of study; rather than seeing race and class only as separate entities that influence educational experiences and outcomes, our research needs to examine how race and class interact to shape lived experience in schools and colleges.

These inequities have particular relevance for the urban landscape. Urban settings are rich in diversity and are often comprised of populations that are a higher percentage minority and come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds than the population in general in this country. Exploring ways to theoretically and empirically understand how race and class combine to influence students' experiences and educational opportunities is critical if we are to produce research that captures the complexity of this landscape. The work of Pierre Bourdieu provides both theoretical structure and tools to aid researchers in this effort.

Over the last 20 years, the work of French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu has become increasingly popular among American social scientists. One of Bourdieu's central theoretical constructs is habitus. Briefly, habitus can be understood as a system of lasting transposable dispositions rooted in early familial socialization. Habitus can provide a more useful conceptual tool to social scientists than has been found in the educational literature to date. First, the use of habitus properly situated in the Bourdieuian theoretical model demands a greater attention to the context, or field of interaction, in which educational opportunity is shaped, which provides for a more accurate and detailed portrait of how race and class function to shape educational experiences. Second, the notion of habitus can help researchers to explore how race and class influence students' lives in a more integrated fashion.

Despite the increasing use of Bourdieu's work in education, and the social sciences more broadly, several problems remain. Increasing use of select terms without positioning these terms within the overall theoretical framework has, at times, led to a distortion of both key concepts and the overall project (Bourdieu & Wacquant, 1992). While some of his work is relatively accessible and there now exist several very good secondary texts on Bourdieu (Bourdieu & Wacquant, 1992; Calhoun, LiPuma & Postone, 1993; Harker, Mahar & Wilkes, 1990; Robbins, 1991; Swartz, 1997) Bourdieu's work can be difficult to decipher1. This inaccessibility of Bourdieu's work is due to the fact that he writes in a dense and convoluted prose, covers a wide variety of substantive areas (for example: art, culture, philosophy, and language), and that English speaking audiences have often had to wait for the translation of his works which leads to a fragmented understanding of his overall project2. Also, researchers have paid more attention to Bourdieu's notions of cultural capital and social capital than they have to the crucial notion of habitus. Clearly, despite the proven usefulness of Bourdieu's work in educational research, there is still a great deal of confusion surrounding his research and a limited understanding of the full scope of Bourdieu's theoretical structure.

The Role of Race in the Habitus

While other research has applied Bourdieu's notions to an examination of the role of race in structuring social life (Farkas, 1996; Horvat, 1996; Kalmijn & Kaaykamp, 1996; Lareau & Horvat, 1999; MacLeod, 1987; McDonough, Antonio & Trent, 1997), Bourdieu's original work does not incorporate race. Here, I attempt to show how race can be fruitfully combined with his theoretical framework in order to produce a more accurate rendering of social life. How can a status group theory that is based on the notion of class accurately and usefully be applied to racial distinctions and patterns of domination?

Of course, Bourdieu does not conceive of class as a product of the relation of the individual to the means of production. Nor does he believe in using only occupation as a class marker. Bourdieu (1984) argues that one must consider class as a construct that encompasses individuals who share homogeneous conditions of existence, sets of dispositions and preferences, and are capable of generating similar practices in social settings. Thus, in Bourdieu's formulation, every aspect of an individual's social condition, including race and ethnicity, contribute to class membership and the development of the habitus. An individual's class position is homologous to others whose lives are similarly affected by the objective conditions of existence. The habitus is generated by the social conditions of lived experience including race, ethnicity, geographical location, and gender.

When data are examined through the lens of class, that is, looking for class differences in educational experiences or educational outcomes, we get one set of answers. However, while these answers may be useful, they are incomplete. For instance, Lareau (1989) has documented the ways in which middle class children's school experiences are customized by their parents. She has shown how particular experiences are included or excluded from a child's education and how these patterns of inclusion and exclusion (Lamont & Lareau, 1988) are based on class. Yet in this early work she did not explicitly explore the effects of race on the phenomenon of customized school experiences. In her current work, Lareau is examining both race and class influences on children's lives. The picture that is emerging is more complex than this early work. For example, while class still appears to be the dominant force shaping children's lives, this class influence is mediated by race in important ways (Lareau & Horvat 1999; Lareau, in press). In other words, class may still be seen to be the dominant force in shaping children's lives, but in her work she is able to explore how race contributes to the ways that class matters and the power of its effect. Using Bourdieu's framework, Lareau has been able to illustrate the layered effect of race and class on children's experiences.

A note about the organization of this paper is in order here. This paper offers an extended theoretical discussion supported by exemplary analysis of empirical data. Much of the research that has attempted to employ Bourdieu's concepts has done so in a truncated and, therefore, inaccurate fashion. Often, researchers will use only one of the four central theoretical constructs (habitus, capital, field, or practice) from Bourdieu's model (see for example, Davis, 1998; Trujillo & Diaz, 1999; Zweigenhaft, 1992, 1993; also, see McDonough, 1994; Lareau & Horvat, 1999). For example, the notion of cultural capital is often used as a stand-alone concept (for example, Kalmijn & Kraaykamp, 1996). Yet, as I will argue below, the notion of capital only has meaning in a specific field. This selective and truncated use of individual concepts without positioning within the larger model has presented a serious shortcoming in the research that has attempted to use Bourdieu's model and has limited the effectiveness.

The central focus of this paper is a theoretical discussion of the notion of habitus and its utility in understanding how race and class influence educational experiences, educational opportunity, and life trajectories. In particular, habitus could help researchers to understand the complex and entrenched causes behind the historically limited educational opportunities available to many urban students. I offer an extended theoretical explanation of how all of the key concepts fit into the overall theoretical model before turning to an exploration of how the notion of habitus can be fruitfully applied to empirical research in education. My empirical exploration of the usefulness of habitus as a theoretical tool draws on examples from a qualitative, longitudinal study conducted in an urban setting that examined how fourteen Black women, drawn initially from three different high schools, interpret educational opportunity in the college application process, and how they interpret it four years later as they prepare to graduate from college. Thus, while using the data to illustrate how the concept of habitus can allow researchers to examine the layered effects of race and class from a theoretical perspective, this work also aims to provide a complex portrait of educational opportunity in an urban setting. This portrait illustrates the complicated ways in which race and class, embodied in the habitus, combine to shape experiences and opportunity. I begin the theoretical explication of Bourdieu's work by providing some background on his life that is relevant to his theoretical work.

Bourdieu3 and His Sociology

Born in 1930 in the southwest region of France, Bourdieu experienced the tightly controlled and highly competitive academic selection process in France and entered one of the most famous and the most academically oriented of the French grandes ecoles, the Ecole Normale Superieure, where he studied philosophy. The experience of being a provincial outsider in this privileged, Parisian enclave appears to have indelibly marked Bourdieu and his work. Though he now holds arguably the most distinguished chair in sociology in France, his status as a cultural outsider to Paris and the intellectual elite has clearly influenced his work.

To fully understand Bourdieu's work in education it is important to see it as part of a broader intellectual agenda4. Indeed, there are three topics central to his work: 1) resolving the structure/agency dichotomy; 2) removing the reliance on subjectivism and objectivism in social science by advancing the practice of reflexive social science; and 3) inextricably linking theory and empirical data. Each of these individual thrusts of Bourdieu's work should be seen as part of an integrated effort to correct our understanding of social life. Taken as a whole, his work is fundamentally aimed at providing a more accurate and complete vision of social interaction or what Bourdieu calls "practice."

The first important theme in Bourdieu's work is that of rendering false the structure/agency dichotomy or the fissure in our understanding of social interaction. It is important to keep in mind that, as Harker, Mahar and Wilkes (1990) write, "for Bourdieu, structural properties are always embedded in everyday events." He believes that action structures structure and structure structures action. Bourdieu advocates a dialectical relationship between structure and action that results, he argues, in a better understanding of social practice.

In examining race and class in education, this means that individual action or choice must be understood in structural context. Individual attitudes or decisions are made in light of the structural context surrounding actor's lives. In turn, the structural forces in educational settings, such as school tracking policies or college and university admissions policies, are influenced by individual's actions. In Bourdieu's theoretical conceptualization, individuals' actions and outlooks, which are rooted in personal history, including race and class influences, shape and are shaped by structural events and practices, creating a continuous dialectical reformulation of lived experience.

The second theme central to Bourdieu's work is the effort to transcend the subject/object dichotomy rooted in positivism (Swartz, 1997). While sharply critical of positivism, Bourdieu does not argue that objectivity is unattainable. Rather, he argues that it is only through questioning how we examine the social world that we can achieve a degree of objectivity (Swartz, 1997). Unlike positivist stances, which place greater emphasis on the logic of verification, Bourdieu's epistemological stance calls for an integration of theory formulation, data collection, and measurement. Moreover, he highlights the degree to which "the sociologist's relationship to his or her practice is usually mediated by values, attitudes, and their representations that are frequently quite remote from the formal standards of verification" (Swartz, 1997, p. 34). Bourdieu's method relies on a reflexive science of society in which the researcher is contextually situated and examined as a means of moving closer to informed objectivity. His key concept of habitus, the set of transposable dispositions and preferences rooted in personal history, which is both created by and generative of individuals and structures, also "transcends the traditional dichotomies of subjectivism and objectivism" (Swartz, 1997, p. 35).

Lastly, this reflexive sociology is characterized by an intimate linking of theory and data. Bourdieu adamantly opposes efforts to generate theory in the absence of data. Indeed, he sees theory and empirical work as inextricably intertwined, not merely linked. Wacquant writes:

He [Bourdieu] does not seek to connect theoretical and empirical work in a tighter manner but to cause them to interpenetrate each other entirely…Bourdieu maintains that every act of research is simultaneously empirical (it confronts the world of observable phenomena) and theoretical (it necessarily engages hypotheses about the underlying structure of relations that observations are designed to capture) (1992, p. 34-35, italics in original).

For Bourdieu, the role of theory in research is a practical and indispensable one. Theories are continually derived from empirical data and the search for data is driven by the theoretical hypotheses.

By providing a more accurate description of the practical mastery of individuals in the social world, Bourdieu captures the ways in which individuals manage and simultaneously influence the structural forces in social life. This effort to capture a "bird in flight" (Robbins, 1991), to capture human interaction and the sources of power in these interactions which perpetuate systems of domination and subordination, is one of the more original and useful contributions of Bourdieu's work.

Bourdieu's interpretation of social life centers on the notion of symbolic power. Briefly, symbolic power can be understood as the power to legitimate authority and order in the social world. He is fundamentally concerned with unmasking the misrecognitions of power that legitimate the current social order. This representation is aimed at making visible those often unrecognized mechanisms and cultural norms that serve to maintain the social hierarchy. This attention to revealing the systemic mechanisms that perpetuate patterns of domination and subordination provides a useful lens for social scientists to use in the examination of social problems. Bourdieu's framework focuses our attention away from descriptions of how individuals navigate the current social system. It focuses our attention on the important hidden and intrinsic rules of our social world. It is in this "taken for granted" world that the power to define and perpetuate these social rules and their status arrangements resides.

For Bourdieu, the social enterprise is one of generating distinction. It is in distinguishing oneself in particular ways as a member of a particular class that power or capital is constituted in society. For Bourdieu, cultural distinctions are a currency of exchange. He writes, "the dominant culture… contributes to the legitimation of the established order by establishing distinctions (hierarchies) and legitimating these distinctions" (1994, p. 167). As Swartz (1997, p. 51) notes, "cultural differences serve as markers of class differences … [and] class differences find expression in status distinctions that rank individuals and groups." Moreover, the dominant culture forces "all other cultures (designated as subcultures) to define themselves by their distances from the dominant culture" (Bourdieu, 1994, p. 167). The dominant group thus defines the hierarchy of the social world. However, this domination is exercised in such a way that it is unconsciously and uncritically accepted by actors in the field as the "natural order."

The most powerful distinctions are those that are viewed as arbitrary. These distinctions are thus "defined in and through a given relation between those who exercise power and those who submit to it" (Bourdieu, 1994, p. 170). These distinctions perpetuate misrecognized domination and constitute what Bourdieu calls symbolic violence. Bourdieu writes, "symbolic violence accomplishes itself through an act of cognition and of misrecognition that lies beyond - or beneath - the controls of consciousness and will" (1992, p. 171-172). It is the habituated notions that lie beneath the consciousness of dominated individuals and groups of individuals that allow them to accept without question the "natural order." The mechanisms for symbolic violence are manifest in the "modalities of practices, the ways of looking, sitting, standing, keeping silent or even of speaking" (Bourdieu, 1994, p. 51). These "'choices' of the habitus are accomplished without consciousness" (Bourdieu, 1994, p. 51). Symbolic violence is made possible by the fact that the dominated do not recognize their domination but rather practice habituated actions that perpetuate it. Again, Bourdieu writes, "we cannot understand symbolic violence and practice without forsaking entirely the scholastic opposition between coercion and consent, external imposition and internal impulse" (1992, p. 172).

There are four key concepts important in understanding Bourdieu's theoretical project: habitus, capital, field and practice. Below I offer a detailed explanation of each individually and in relation to the others.

Habitus. The habitus can be viewed "as a system of lasting, transposable dispositions which … functions at every moment as a matrix of perceptions, appreciations, and actions" (Bourdieu, 1977, p. 82-83, italics in original). In a more vernacular definition of the habitus Bourdieu stated in a 1985 interview "I am trying to describe and analyse [sic] the genesis of one's person. That is, habitus or the notion of habitus" (Harker, Mahar & Wilkes, 1990, p. 33). These perceptions and actions are "derived from the predominantly unconscious internalization, particularly during early childhood, of objective chances that are common to members of a social class or status group" (Swartz, 1997, p. 104). In deciding which action to take and in carrying out an action in society, individuals listen to their own internalized interpretation of societal rules. Bourdieu notes, "In order for a field to function, there have to be stakes and people prepared to play the game, endowed with the habitus that implies knowledge and recognition of the immanent laws of the field, the stakes and so on" (1993, p. 72). This recognition, however, occurs at a subconscious level. The habitus provides a tacit, internal, subconscious understanding through time of the rules of social interaction.

The habitus also serves to determine for individuals the course of acceptable action in a given field. Individuals are strategic improvisors (Swartz, 1997; McDonough, Ventresca & Outcalt, 1999; McDonough & Tobolowsky, 1998) who interpret the world and take action based on the sedimented dispositions and preferences rooted in the habitus. The notion of strategy should not be seen as a form of rational decisionmaking but rather an unconscious enactment of the individual dispositions, which govern the vision of possible and appropriate actions in a particular field.

The habitus is the site of individual internalizations of the rules of the game in a specific field of interaction. Bourdieu often uses the notion of a game to explain the concept of practical mastery and how the habitus functions to generate and constrain action (Bourdieu & Wacquant, 1993; Lareau & Horvat, 1999). From a Bourdieuian point of view, it is the practices of everyday life that create the culture that provide the boundaries of our worlds. As noted earlier, it is the interaction of the individual habitus with the surrounding field that creates meaning and the positions of power from which we live out our lives. The habitus provides the "common sense" way of operating in the world. In the same way that a basketball player has an unconscious sense of her position on the court, and that of her teammates as well, which allows her to make a "no look" or "blind" pass accurately to one another player, we all have an internalized, second-nature sense of the operation of place, position, and relation in our social world. This innate, unconscious sense, the habitus, allows for this kind of instinctual "blind" or "no look" interaction.

Basketball (and other games), like social life, is governed by a set of rules that govern play. Moreover, all games produce distinct and identifiable outcomes as players attempt to achieve a specific goal through their actions. Players use their resources (e.g., a jump shot, speed, tricky plays), to advance their goals. Players also employ these resources in a strategic fashion aimed at winning the game. Each decision a player makes on the court is driven by the sedimented dispositions and preferences rooted in their knowledge and experience of the game: their habitus.

The habitus is central to Bourdieu's method. It has been called "a kind of theoretical deus ex machina by means of which Bourdieu relates objective structure and individual activity" (DiMaggio, 1979, p. 1464). That is, the habitus is the mechanism whereby individual action is shaped by and, in turn, shapes social structures in a continuous dialectical reformulation. Habitus is central to Bourdieu's effort to reveal a picture of society that transcends the structure/agency dichotomy. It is through the habitus that structural elements of societal interaction come to be embodied in the individual and through which the individuals structure structures. Habitus is the means by which the dialectical relationality between individuals and society is operationalized and the mechanism by which an individual interprets possible actions.

One of the most useful elements of habitus is that it does not merely function as a boundary mechanism, that is, defining what actions or plans are acceptable. It also functions as a generative mechanism from which possibilities and potentialities for action in the social world spring. That which is judged or gauged as reasonable or possible for a given individual in a field of interaction is determined by the habitus. The habitus is the mechanism by which individuals develop a sense of their place in the world and the availability or accessibility of a variety of social worlds. It represents an individual's internalization of possibility.

Because the notion of habitus encompasses the universe of experiences and background characteristics of particular individuals, it is potentially quite useful to investigations focused on race and class influences in education. An individual's habitus is a means by which we can look at race and class simultaneously and explore how these constructs shape individual's views of the possible for their plans and actions in the social world.

Capital. The construct of Bordieu's that is most familiar to US audiences is that of capital. The notion of capital exists within Bourdieu's method for viewing the social world. There are several forms of capital that can be transformed or converted into one another. However, all capital is essentially a form of power in a given field (Bourdieu, 1987). Economic capital is often thought of as money or resources that have a monetary valuation such as real estate or stocks. Social capital can be conceived of as the set of valuable connections or networks of a given individual. Bourdieu (1987, p. 248-249) notes that by providing the power of group membership to an individual, social capital "provides each of its members with the backing of the collectivity-owned capital, a 'credential' which entitles them to 'credit', in the various sense of the word."

In the broadest sense, cultural capital can be thought of as the cultural resources , such as high status cultural knowledge about art or music, that can serve to access power for an individual. Cultural capital also can be conceived of as mannerisms and practices that have high status value as well as educational credentials. Bourdieu has developed a formalized typology for these three forms of cultural capital (Bourdieu, 1987). Cultural capital can be classified into three states: embodied, objectified, and institutionalized. There is not space in this essay to fully develop an explication of each of these.5 However, briefly, the embodied form of cultural capital "takes the form of long-lasting dispositions of the mind and body" (Bourdieu, 1987). The objectified state takes the form of "cultural goods" such as books, instruments, and machines, and the institutionalized state most often takes the form of academic qualifications or credentials. As Swartz (1997, p. 75) notes, Bourdieu's point is to "suggest that culture (in the broadest sense of the term) can become a power resource." It is critical to understand the notion of capital in relation to another of Bourdieu's key concepts, field.

Field. In recent years, attention in the US has primarily focused on the notion of capital, however capital only has value in a given field and "it is only convertible into another kind of capital on certain conditions" (Bourdieu, 1993, p. 73). Bourdieu uses the term "field" to capture the "rules of the game" (Bourdieu & Wacquant, 1992). All action takes place within a specific field of interaction. The idea of field is distinct from the American notion of domain (Harker, Mahar & Wilkes, 1990). These fields are fields of forces that are constantly at play (Harker, Mahar & Wilkes, 1990; Swartz, 1997). Bourdieu writes, "Fields present themselves systematically as structured spaces of positions (or posts) whose properties depend on their position within these spaces and which can be analysed independently of the characteristics of their occupants"(1993, p. 72). And while there are general laws of fields, those being the necessity of commonly understood stakes of the game and players willing and able to play the game (Bourdieu, 1993), each field of interaction has its own system of valuation and practice.

In a given field of interaction, different forms of capital have various values. The value of these resources can take many forms. All individuals have social capital to invest or activate in a variety of social settings or fields. However, all social or cultural capital does not have the same value in a given field. The critical point to note here is that capital only has value in a specific field (Bourdieu, 1987). Certain forms of capital such as money have value across fields but the specific value of all capital, including money, is also field dependent6. The value of the same capital in a different field would not be the same. It is also important to note that the capital is spent or converted by an individual in accordance with his or her habitus and according to the strategy of the particular individual. Thus, the value of capital is dependent on the specific field of interaction and the habitus of the individual displaying or activating the capital.

Much conflict and competition in society is aimed at gathering the power of legitimation: attaining the legitimacy to name and construct the rules of interaction. Bourdieu and Wacquant (1992, p. 17) write, "A field is simultaneously a space of conflict and competition … in which participants vie to establish monopoly over the species of effective capital in it." Indeed, Bourdieu argues that efforts at distinction by various classes constitute a form of symbolic violence whose aim it is to dominate other classes (Bourdieu, 1984; 1994). Over time, in some instances, a given subordinate class acculturates the codes of distinction. When this happens, the codes valued in a specific field then change to perpetuate the dominant order, or new codes are introduced. Thus, the concept of field as the embodiment of the rules of the game as well as the site wherein the struggle to own or control these rules takes place, is critical to understanding Bourdieu's model of social interaction. For, as Bourdieu states: "Symbolic power is a power of constructing reality…" (Bourdieu, 1994, p. 166). The notion of field is one of the most overlooked of Bourdieu's concepts. Notions of capital are often used without positioning the capital in a field. Recent work (Lareau & Horvat, 1999) has highlighted the problems associated with this approach.

Practice. These three concepts: habitus, field, and capital, combine to create practice. These key concepts are displayed in the following formula taken from Bourdieu's (1984, p. 101) work Distinction:

[(habitus) (capital)] + field = practice
This formula captures the major elements of Bourdieu's work and places them in relation to one another. Habitus and capital interact within a field of interaction to produce practice.

Practice constitutes the actions taken by individual actors in fields of interaction. These actions constitute the practice of maximizing one's potential in a field given the individual's habitus and capital. Practice is the action taken given the everyday sense-making over time in which individuals engage. Practice in the field of interaction is shaped by multiple forces interacting together including the rules governing the field as well as the relative positions of players in this field. Practice is constituted by action yet is also the product of habitus and capital and is enacted in a specific field of interaction. This concept provides a way of thinking about social action. This way of thinking about social interaction may provide useful tools to social scientists concerned with understanding patterns of educational opportunity in this country.

In particular, I propose that using the notion of habitus could allow researchers to consider the interactive and compounded effects of race and class in social settings. One way to visualize the distinction that I am trying to draw is by thinking about different color lenses or transparencies. If you look through a red (race) colored lens what you see looks red. If you look through a blue (class) colored lens what you see looks blue. However, if you place the red and blue lenses on top of one another what you see looks purple. By using a single lens we are missing the color that is produced when we overlay these lenses one on top of the other. This layering is especially important in urban settings rich in diversity. In these settings, the habitus and everyday practice are influenced by a wide variety of factors that together influence the social space as well as individuals' outlooks and actions within the social space.

These independent effects have been well documented in the literature exploring how race and class influence educational experiences and opportunities. However, the combined effect of race and class is less well explored. That is not to say that independent effects are unimportant, however, it is important to highlight what we are missing by not examining the combined effects of race and class7.

Bourdieu's theoretical model offers researchers a highly flexible model for understanding human social interaction. This model is more flexible than some may realize and provides a way to examine the both/and effects of race and class. Also, it offers a way to transcend the traditional structure/agency dichotomy and highlights the necessity of including the field of interaction, or context, into our analyses. The social world is made up of an infinite number of fields, each with its own logic of practice that determines the valuation of various forms of capital and recognizes differing displays. Watching for change across fields becomes critical.


Empirical examples are drawn from a longitudinal study that examined how individuals in different race and class contexts interpret educational opportunity in the college application process and how they interpret it four years later during the spring before their graduation from college. During 1994-1995, I conducted fieldwork at three different high schools that varied in the race and class composition of their student bodies (see appendix A for a summary of the school characteristics). Due to space constraints, data from only two of the schools are presented here. However, these data are indicative of the overall patterns found in the in the data set as a whole. In addition to conducting extensive observations at each school I conducted lengthy in-depth interviews with each of the fourteen Black girls (total) from the three schools, one parent, and each girl's best friend. There were also interviews with educators in the girls' lives. In 1999, I conducted in-depth telephone interviews with twelve of these same fourteen young women, all of whom were attending college that year, to complete the data set. Both phases of the study use a theoretical framework based on Bourdieu's work and, using habitus, investigate the role that race and class have played in shaping these students' lives and aspirations.

The broad question that drove the original study of high school seniors and the college choice process was: how does our educational system limit or grant access to postsecondary educational opportunity? I was specifically interested in how race and class influenced students' school experiences and their college choice process and the resulting access to the system of higher education.

Rather than examining how students navigated the college choice process through questionnaires or even through stand-alone interviews, it was essential to have an understanding of the context of the high school from which they came and the family and peers who influenced them. Recall that the habitus is rooted in the sedimented class dispositions and preferences stemming from family class status. In the US, this class status is compounded by and conflated with race. I was not only interested in the habitus as a class construct but also as one that encompassed racial elements as well. This required a focus on the habitus of the individual students by learning about their background, preferences, and dispositions. The observations and interviews themselves were aimed at uncovering the taken-for-granted assumptions that guided the students' everyday behavior.

In addition, it was crucial to gain an in-depth understanding of the functioning of the high schools these students attended. I spent a great deal of time at each school (approximately 100 hours at each school) observing in the hallways, cafeterias, and college counseling offices. By focusing my observations on the girls' lives in high school, I was able to situate their actions in a specific field of interaction, and generate highly contextualized accounts of their experiences. Also, due to my in-depth understanding of the inner workings of the field of interaction, the high school, I sought to understand the significance of these actions in context.

The data presented here also highlight the complexity of the modern, urban landscape. While the word urban is often used as a synonym or shorthand to describe poor, minority populations, the work presented here challenges that shorthand definition of urban. One the schools in the study was a wealthy, independent girls' school (a detailed description follows). This school certainly does not fit the shorthand definition of "urban." Yet, it did occupy an urban physical location in the heart of a major US city and was surrounded by a wide variety of other markers that are traditionally associated with the urban setting: minority populations, poverty, and diversity.

The inclusion of this school complicates and enhances our understanding of the urban experience, especially drawing attention to the often permeable boundaries of urban spaces and the complexity of life in these areas. By including these data, I also hope to question the use of the word urban as shorthand for poor and minority. Urban life is filled with diversity of all type, including majority populations and the very wealthy. Highlighting the contrast among the lives of those living in these shared spaces may add to our understanding of urban settings.

For the purposes of this theoretically driven paper, I have selected data elements that illustrate the theoretical points I am attempting to make. However, the data presented here were also selected because they are representative of findings from the data set as a whole. First, using habitus highlights the importance of the field of interaction in understanding how race and class function to contribute to the structuring of educational opportunity. Second, habitus can provide a more accurate depiction of the integrated ways in which race and class influence educational experiences and opportunity.

The Imperative of Field Specificity

A second crucial point regarding habitus is that it is only within a given field of interaction that the habitus and capital have meaning or value (Lareau & Horvat, 1999). Using habitus, as well as Bourdieu's method more broadly, impels social scientists to examine race and class in terms of a specific field of interaction. This means that we need to look at fields of interaction more carefully. We must examine the power context or "rules of the game" within which action takes place to arrive at an accurate understanding of practice.

Researchers often examine how race and class operate in broad contexts rather than examining a specific field of interaction. This leads to an inaccurate understanding of the role that some constructs play in shaping social interaction. Using habitus could provide researchers with a better understanding of how race and class function in the structuring of educational opportunity. In using habitus, social scientists would have to pay careful attention to the rules of the game governing a specific field of interaction. This more detailed attention to the norms and boundaries of acceptable action in a field would provide a more accurate portrait of how race and class function.

For the students in my study, the meaning of race and class in their lives changed as the field of interaction shifted. As the students left high school and made their way through college, the importance and meaning of class and race transformed. The habitus of the students remained virtually the same, but the salience of different elements of their habitus changed. Examples of this phenomenon come from students who attended the Hadley School, a predominantly white, all-girl, elite, college preparatory school. Below is a description of the school followed by exemplar data elements that illustrate how the meaning of race and class in students' lives differed in dissimilar fields of interaction.

The Hadley School for Girls is located in an older, upper middle class neighborhood in the center of a large city. This neighborhood is adjacent to a traditionally Black neighborhood as well as an area that has recently become home to many recent Asian immigrants. As I approach the school by car, I pass through these different neighborhoods, noting the changing color of the faces on the streets as well as the changes in the storefront signs that go from advertising Black hair care products to Asian food products in Korean or Japanese.

The homes in the area immediately surrounding the school are large and well tended. They are typically surrounded by wide green lawns and professionally landscaped yards. For the most part, the families that pay the annual $11,700 tuition to send their daughters to this elite, college preparatory school are professionals and managers. The student parking lot is filled with one and two-year-old sports utility vehicles and sedans that the girls drive to school. The girls in the senior class often leave campus to go out to lunch.

The school itself is dominated by a three story main building that is painted white and is surrounded by extensive landscaping. There is a small, decorative fish pond outside the auditorium as well as a decorative fountain elsewhere on campus. All students are required to wear uniforms which, though usually customized by the students, normally consists of a plaid skirt and a white shirt. White tennis shoes are the required footwear.

The senior class during the 1994-1995 school year was comprised of 85 students. The school as a whole enrolls 500 students in grades 7-12 and employs 77 full time faculty. The school offers an extensive Advanced Placement Program as well as numerous extracurricular activities. All Hadley graduates attend four-year colleges, and many attend some of the most selective schools in the country. Despite the fact that 30% of the students at the school come from a non-white background (15% Asian American, 10% African American, 3% Latino, and 2% Other or Mixed), the school can best be described as white, wealthy, and marked by a sense of oblivious entitlement. This oblivious entitlement is akin to Coles' concept of "narcissistic entitlement" (1977, p. 366) found among the children of the very wealthy. The dominant members of the Hadley school community fail to recognize the diversity within their midst and assume that all members of the community function in society in the same way that they do, with significant class resources and a sense of privilege based on their color (white) and class.

Despite the upper-middle class status of some of the Black girls at Hadley (for instance, one parent was a physician, another a high level manager at a major corporation), none of the Black students that I interviewed at the school felt entirely comfortable there. The degree of their discomfort varied. However, the sources of the discomfort focused on the ways in which they did not belong in this predominantly white and wealthy school. Race and class were the foci of their interpretation of their discomfort. However, in their collegiate experiences, race and class played different roles.

In a quote typical of the way that the Black girls at the school felt about their life at Hadley, the following student comments on how her middle class status served to solidify her subordinate position at the school. In explaining how she felt at school she said: "[In] seventh grade I think I cried almost every single day. Feeling that I couldn't fit in because I didn't have a five-story house and a dog named Fifi and my own car." Yet when she went to college at a large predominantly white college this same girl found that her middle class status was a source of pride and provided her with a sense of belonging. Her social group in college included many other middle class kids.

Other students found that the racial background that had served to distance them from the dominant culture of their high school environments provided them with a sense of belonging in college. This was particularly true for the one student who attended a historically Black college. While in high school, this student felt the negative impact of her race on her school experience. In describing her experiences she noted: "I am the only black person in the majority of my classes. Just conformity and getting used to being black in a predominantly white school and white-run institution [is challenging]. There is racism that exists here." When asked to elaborate on the forms the racism took, she talked about, among other things, being asked to serve as the voice for the Black race in many of her high school classes.

Like, I know me and I'm in the class learning along with everybody else, and so I can't be the spokeswoman for the entire Black race. I can tell you my experience and people that I know, people around me know, but I can't say, 'Well, black people, you know, they would all like this book.' I think that's hard. Like sometimes people make generalizations. It's hard.

When interviewed four years later, this same student talks about the experience of attending college at an historically Black college:

There is a sense of community and sisterhood…an automatic sense of belonging, of somebody looking out for you...there's a solidarity that doesn't exist in the same way at PWIs [predominantly white institutions]. I feel a need to bond with other Black people. There's a comfortability of knowing that if I'm dealing with an issue that has to do with race that I don't feel the discomfort of trying to discuss it, that I don't have to explain where I'm coming from.

This sense of not having to explain where she is coming from is indicative of a shared habitus for the students at her college. While in a predominantly white high school environment, this student was often called upon to explain how Blacks in general might respond to a text. In these situations the student sensed a palpable lack of similarity between her habitus and the culture of the high school. This dissonance and the associated discomfort are replaced by a shared sense of belongingness when she goes to college. In college, this student found that her habitus was consonant with the dominant habitus in the field. The rules of the game were familiar to her. In this instance, the student's habitus had not changed but operated differently in varying fields or contexts. Her race had a different meaning in high school than it did in college.

Another Hadley student who attended a predominantly white institution for college also found a sense of racial belonging. At Hadley her experience was marked by a distinct sense of not fitting in to what she perceived as a white environment. She comments on her Hadley experience:

Like at first when I first went [to Hadley] I didn't realize like that it's a white institution. I was only in seventh grade and I just started to hate it. In eleventh grade I'm like "I can't believe that I go to this type of school." … In the first couple of years, I don't think I was myself. I probably thought it would be best if I just acted like just one of the other white girls at school.

Her experience at the University of Pennsylvania serves as a distinct contrast to the sense of not fitting in that she had in high school. This student found significant pockets of racial support and belonging on campus. This sense of racial belonging she found in college grew out of her interactions with particular professors, the African American Studies and Research Center, specific racially oriented activities, and from living in a group home with only women of color for three years. Here she talks about the ways in which she felt supported by some of her professors:

I got [support] from the professors at the African Studies and Research Center. I consider them family now [laugh]. I mean they were great instructors, some better than others of course. In some of those classes I really learned how to think critically about things, and how to be effective and of course be subjective at the same time. Outside of class they would also just be there, you know, if you wanted to talk about like how this class was affectin' your own life or the way you used to think before and so ... their doors were always open.

For this student race served as a conduit for involvement on campus. Though she majored in biology, she was involved in an African Dance Ensemble, the African American Student Association, and the African American Studies and Research Center.

While her experience differs markedly from the student who attended a historically Black college, she still found a sense of racial belonging that was important to her development. This student did not feel that the institution had her best interests at heart nor did she feel that the institution as a whole was supportive of Black students. She did, however, find significant spaces at college where her racial background, the racial elements of her habitus, were honored and supported by others that shared a similar habitus.

This sense of belonging that she found in college through race bears distinct difference from her high school experiences. In high school the only pockets of belonging or shared racial sensibility could be found with the five other Black members of her class. This limited support was not sufficient to sustain a sense of shared support. Here, she comments on the way that race was not actively addressed at Hadley.

I'm Black which is not the norm at Hadley and I have different societal experiences. Although I still think that I've had a privileged lifestyle, I know people, a lot of my friends and so on, who ... like what they go through in this country. I guess [at Hadley] I wanted to go to school and be like, "Well, I think it's wrong that so and so was arrested for no reason this last Friday, because he's Black." That's not somethin' that people want me to say. You know what I mean? They don't wanna hear that because then that would make them have to face the reality that's going on in our country -- the whole community of Hadley. If everyone would speak the reality of their experience truthfully, then that would make the school have to transform. And so ... I feel like the voices of the students of color have to be silent in order for there to be peace at Hadley.

In college, this student joined groups on her college campus and in the city in which her college was located to protest racial injustice. Though racism still existed in college, the way in which this student managed her racial habitus was different. Due to the opportunity to become involved with other students of color on campus and due to the support of specific professors and programs, this student found pockets of racial belonging8. Her habitus as a Black woman had a distinctly different meaning for her in high school than it did in college. In a field of interaction where there were some (albeit limited by her account) resources and supports, her race became a source of pride and belonging. For both of these young women the role that race played in shaping their interactions in social settings shifted as the field of interaction changed. The rules of the game were different in college than they were in high school and consequently race took on a different meaning.

Integration and Interplay

As noted earlier, much of social science research examines race and class as distinct, if at times interrelated, constructs. However, some researchers recognize the combined or as Collins (1991) states it the "both/and" quality of ascriptive characteristics. Using the notion of habitus helps to create an integrated and detailed understanding of the roles of race and class on individual's lives. In conversations about college planning and education more generally, both the students and the college counselors in this study co-mingled race and class explanations in their narratives exploring how access to educational opportunity worked in their worlds. They would also talk about how educational opportunity was structured in their high schools. These discussions at Lincoln High School, a low socio-economic status school with a predominantly Black student population located in the inner city, are particularly illustrative of this point.

Lincoln has an enrollment of about 3500, comprised of 85% Black students and 15% Latino students. It is headed by a dynamic principal and houses two magnet programs; one program focuses on science and math and the other on communication arts. These magnet programs draw more academically oriented and capable students from all over the city. The school is known as a college preparatory school. The school's mission clearly indicates preparation for higher education as one of its overall goals. It also has a history of expecting more from its students than other schools that serve a similar low-income, Black population and has been viewed as something of a jewel of excellence and hope in this often times rough neighborhood. Many students choose to attend this school instead of their neighborhood school specifically because of its reputation for academics and its stated focus on college preparation.

The residents of the area immediately surrounding Lincoln are, for the most part, working class individuals and families. The school is situated three blocks off of a main thoroughfare, which is lined with fast-food stores, strip malls, and shopping centers. The school occupies an entire city block. The school as a whole is well secured from the outside by locked doors and a chain link fence surrounding the perimeter of its athletic fields and parking areas. All students must enter the school through the main door or one of the two gated entrances. The walls of the school are a dull canary yellow color and the poorly lit corridors are dark with plain concrete floors. High above eye level there are dust-covered plastic geraniums in baskets that line the walls of the corridors but they do little to overpower the graffiti that appears regularly on the walls and is quickly painted over by custodians. One of the walls of the corridors is decorated with a poster that says: "See a Gun at School? Save a Life. Tell Someone."

During the months of data collection at Lincoln, two students and one former student were shot to death in gang-related incidents in the neighborhood surrounding the school. In response to the pervasive violence in the neighborhood and at the school, there is sizable security force. Additionally, Lincoln has instituted programs such as a "grief group" to provide a place for students to talk through their feelings about losing their friends to death.

One way that individuals would talk about how race and class shaped educational experiences and trajectories at Lincoln was to refer to various resources that students had at other predominantly white high schools. They intertwined these observations with their assessment of educational opportunity for themselves and their prospects for the future. This Black student from Lincoln, for instance, is well aware of the advantages that come with whiteness and the disadvantages with which her race is burdened. Yet, she also intertwines an exploration of class circumstances:

It seems like white people have more advantages. They have better schools. I'm not saying that our schools don't educate right. For us, having computers in the classroom is like the biggest thing in the world and like we have a CD ROM and I didn't even know -- that's like, "Wow! We have a CD ROM?" Then, we have some white kids who have CD-ROM at their house. So, they're familiar with that stuff. Maybe their parents are already doctors or already lawyers, and teachers and professionals. Black people -- usually, you have the welfare and then you have the people like my mom who are kind of like middle class and who are just working paycheck to paycheck, struggling just to live. I think that in the white population you have more professionals than in the black population. That influences a child.

This student sees the circumstances that surround the students at her school and knows that the playing field is far from level. She notes that these differences which mark the experience of white students and black students are rooted in their differential race and class histories; white kids have parents "who are already doctors or already lawyers." She implies that these families have been around long enough to reach this level of education and the accompanying class position. Furthermore, in noting the advantages from which these white children of doctors and lawyers benefit, such as the latest computer innovations, she recognizes the intergenerational quality of our society's status arrangements based on our racial history. In Bourdieuian terms, this student has articulated some of the markers of a shared habitus that was observed for students at this school. This habitus is rooted in notions of race and class positionality. She explicitly links race advantage and class advantage in her analysis.9

Students seem to know that their education and school is different from and inferior to that found at "white schools" and yet many of the reasons cited for this have to do with class issues. For example, this student cites both race and class influences when she interprets her SAT scores. Her combined verbal and math score on the SAT was 810.

I did OK for black kids. [The college counselor] said I did well. [My teacher] said I did OK. I think if I was a white kid going to whatever little white high school, I would have done really better. I think they teach you better. If my brothers [who had gone to a predominantly white private college prep school] had gotten an 800 [combined] on their SATs, I would say OK. I know that they are not smarter than I am. We're all like the same. I think if this school had taught me the way [my brother's school] had taught my brothers, then I think I would have broken a thousand, too [like my brothers did]. Because it was expected and I think I could have done it.

This student believes that race and class have influenced her education. She knows that students at a white school have a different and superior education. She also knows that her brothers who attended a white and wealthy private school did better on their SAT's than she did despite the fact that they are not "smarter than her." She seems to see that both race and class issues influence performance on the SAT and that she is operating from a position of double disadvantage by attending a poor, predominantly Black school.

Similarly a college counselor from the same school notes:

I think most of our kids think college is a place for these kids who have a lot of money, different culture, etc. How many people have they seen in college? How many of their own? How many moms or dads do they have in college, or cousins or uncles? Anybody? Even, to this day, there are kids that are still -- I find it amazing that in 1995 -- that there are black kids who still are saying, "I'm the first one to even go to college."

For this counselor, the vision that her students can generate for how they might live out their lives, or their habitus, is shaped by both race and class influences. For the students in her school, college is a place for white middle class kids. Middle class kids are perceived as having abundant resources and the cultural capital necessary to attend college. They belong. Moreover, race and class influence one another in shaping opportunity and students' conceptions of the possible. It is not just money but culture and race that serve to construct the horizons of the young people in this school. These students distinguish themselves from those other students who fit in the college environment by virtue of the race and class markers of their habitus. While there are some students who question current status arrangements and rail against "the system," many of the students in this school accept these educational opportunity arrangements as the "natural order."10 By using the theoretical construct of habitus, culture, race, and class distinctions can be viewed as forms of symbolic violence wherein the dominated class accepts as natural their position in the hierarchy.

The counselor estimated that less than 25% of the parents of seniors during 1995 were college educated. Here the counselor cites another example of the way that race and class powerfully mix in this school to create a stacked deck for these kids:

I got an essay right here from a student who talks about his environment, African-American male, growing up in South Central Los Angeles. "Life has been pretty much what everybody believes it's supposed to be in South Central Los Angeles." He even pointed out that he's in a single-parent home -- his mother. He talks about he's witnessed drive-by shootings, he witnessed robberies and drug transactions. He knows of kids who have been sexually abused and he knows women who have been raped. This is his essay. His sentence that puts it all together says, "I managed to succeed," and he has. He's been accepted to UCLA. He was also accepted to USC. He realizes from writing this what he's up against.

For the students from this school, the possibilities for their lives are structured by their internalization of the structure of the world around them. They have an internalized sense of the possibilities for their lives. These possibilities most often include attending two-year colleges and some historically Black colleges. However, attending elite or selective schools that are some distance from their homes is not viewed as a viable alternative. These findings highlight the degree to which the interaction of race and class contribute to the process of self exclusion in an individual's evaluation of their capital (Lamont & Lareau, 1988).

Habitus also allows us to account for the interplay between race and class in understanding individual actor's interpretations of their life chances. By using the notion of habitus as a mechanism by which we examine students in specific fields of interaction, social scientists can examine how both race and class influence students' lives as well as how these two constructs themselves influence one another. By using a single construct to encompass the ways that our dispositions are based on our personal history, including race and class, we can see how race and class come to be enacted in our daily lives in an interactive rather than separate fashion. This provides us with a more nuanced and accurate understanding of social practice in daily life.


It is clear that race and class influence educational opportunity and educational trajectories for young people. Social scientists have explored these effects for many years. Still, despite this important line of research, difficulties remain. This previous research has often examined race and class effects separately and we have not attended to important contextual differences in crafting our models.

Bourdieu's work offers a set of conceptual tools that allows researchers to more critically and accurately explore how race and class influence educational opportunity. I have highlighted the utility of Bourdieu's overall model and drawn particular attention to the notion of habitus as a tool for more fully understanding how race and class influence educational opportunity.

Using habitus, researchers can examine race and class effects at the same time. Rather than separating out the effects of race and class, we can come to a more well-integrated portrait of how these constructs together function to structure educational opportunity. We can also explore how race and class mutually influence one another to define a student's assessment of his or her educational possibilities or life path. The notion of habitus provides a mechanism whereby we can uncover the subconscious, internalized sense of accessibility to educational opportunity for individuals. We can also provide a more accurate picture of the way in which race and class function in differing contexts across time.

This more nuanced and complicated understanding of how race and class interact to shape lived experience is particularly relevant in urban settings. As noted earlier, urban landscapes are marked by complexity and diversity in many domains. In addition, the lives of individuals with distinctly different habituses are more often intertwined in these settings. The notion of habitus and Bourdieu's method more generally, is useful in these settings to assist us in understanding how the complexity of the urban social space is navigated and contested.

Conclusion and Implications

While I have illustrated the potential utility of Bourdieu's method, the question remains: how can we use Bourdieu's method more broadly to improve research in this area? How can we design and implement our research in such a way as to, as Robbins (1991) says, "capture a bird in flight," to capture a more realistic version of social interaction? I see two ways that we can use Bourdieu's method to accomplish his goal. First we can, as is advocated by David Swartz (personal communication, 1999), use Bourdieu's work as a heuristic device. That is, we can use it as an analytic position we take to do research, as a sort of orienting device.

There are some fundamental principles that guide research in a Bourdieuian perspective. Many of these have been noted earlier. For instance, in this theoretical framework, the goal is not necessarily to examine individual interaction with social systems but rather to uncover the rules and power dynamics which govern social interaction. This is an example of an orienting stance to research. It would guide the researcher to look at individual action as a response to social systems and to examine the ways in which individual action shapes social structures. Another example is the importance of context in understanding social interaction. Bourdieu's emphasis on the importance of field highlights the role of context in understanding social interaction.

We can also use the apparatus laid out by Bourdieu as a set of conceptual tools. That is, we can use habitus, capital, field, and practice to better understand our social world. The difficulty lies in finding ways to accurately and adequately capture these constructs in such a way that they may be employed in an empirical fashion. As Aschaffenburg and Maas (1997, p. 584) note "Bourdieu's theoretical arguments are simply not articulated in empirical terms." We need to more accurately identify the elements that make up the habitus, for instance, so that researchers can more systematically uncover its effects. There is a need to develop conceptually grounded quantitative proxies for habitus and various forms of capital that are multidimensional in nature. One or two variables do not appear to me to be sufficient. With these proxies, we can then conduct large-scale quantitative studies that employ Bourdieu's method in a more accurate manner.

Similarly, we also need to explore ways in which to carry out large-scale qualitative studies. Qualitative studies which, in general, provide more attention to issues of context and for that reason are in some ways well suited to Bourdieu's method, are time intensive and typically conducted at a single site. Usually, though there are exceptions (Lareau, in press; Shaw & London, 2001), they are carried out by single researchers over an intensive period. Consequently, sample sizes are small and the ability to draw generalizations quite limited. Though there are many drawbacks to large-scale qualitative research projects, they offer a promising avenue for future research.

It is clear that race and class influence the life chances of young people. Unraveling how these patterns persist over time is of critical importance. This is particularly true in urban settings marked by persistent inequities. If our educational institutions are ever going to address the needs of all of their students, we must have a better understanding of how and why these patterns persist. Bourdieu's work provides one promising theoretical pathway for addressing the persistent and important combined effects of race and class on access and opportunity.

Appendix A
Schools Summary Chart

Type of School
Public comprehensive high school
Independent girls' college prep. school
Number of Students
(grades 9-12)
(grades 7-12)
General Socioeconomic Composition
Racial Composition
Predominantly Black
Predominantly white
Counselor to Student Ratio
1 to 514
1 to 42
Average SAT I Composite*
Percent College Bound
(2- and 4-year)
(all 4-year)

*National SAT I average: 900 California SAT I average: 900
  National SAT I average for Blacks: 740

**This is the percentage that was reported by the counselor in official documentation however in conversation with the counselor she noted that the actual percentage of students who begin college in the fall is much lower. She estimated that the actual percentage of students who attend college within a year of graduating from high school was 40%.




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1 - For instance, it is not unusual for a single sentence to extend for half of a page of text. His writing is heavily laden with clauses embedded within clauses and is also made cumbersome by the use of extensive and frequent footnotes. At first glance, this dense and convoluted prose can appear to be some sort of code language which, while written in French and translated into English, appears to bear little resemblance to the standard structures and meanings of the language. However, over time, as one becomes more familiar with his style and the meanings he applies to certain words, reading his work does get easier. (back)
2 - The convoluted density of his prose is intentional on Bourdieu's part; it is part of his effort to distinguish his work from other lines of inquiry and schools of thought. He has adopted a style that he believes makes it difficult for his work to be "disciplinized" or categorized (Robbins, 1991). This has also contributed to the degree to which his work has tended to span across disciplines, as he has attempted to deny all efforts to classify his work as sociology, anthropology, or philosophy.
3 - The most complete and detailed biographical information on this somewhat personally reclusive French thinker is available in David Swartz's fine book on Bourdieu, Culture and Power (1997). Much of the biographical details in this paper's abbreviated biography are drawn from Swartz's text. Despite the growing use of Bourdieu's theoretical framework in social science (Horvat, 1996; Hurtado & Carter 1997; McDonough, 1997; McDonough, Ventresca & Outcalt, 1999; Nespor, 1990; Valadez, 1996; Zweigenhaft, 1992, 1993), surprisingly little is known about him. Yet, researchers and their work are invariably shaped by personal and intellectual history. Often, understanding the personal and intellectual context of a line of research can provide the opportunity for a deeper understanding of the work. In order to provide some, albeit limited, insight into Bourdieu and his formative influences I offer the following brief personal and intellectual background sketch. Pierre Bourdieu is the author of some 30 books and 340 published articles. He directs his own research center, the Centre for Sociologie European. Since 1981, he has held the chair of sociology at the elite College de France. He is one of the most prominent and prolific sociologists of our time. His intellectual enterprise has been compared to that of one of his French predecessors: Emile Durkheim (Calhoun, LiPuma & Postone 1993; Swartz, 1997). (back)
4 - Bourdieu's work has substantively ranged from studies of Algerian peasant life (Bourdieu, 1962, 1964), to the study of sport and sportsmen (Bourdieu, 1978), to art and fashion to higher education (1979) and language (1994). (back)
5 - For a complete description of Bourdieu's notions of capital the reader should consult Richardson, J. (Ed.). (1987/1979). The forms of capital: Handbook of theory and research for the sociology of education. New York: Greenwood Press. (back)
6 - In other words a pound of gold may be worth more in London than in Cairo. It may also vary by the hour or day. The specific field determines the value of the capital. (back)
7 - One way to visualize the distinction that I am trying to draw is by thinking about different color lenses or transparencies. If you look through a red (race) colored lens what you see looks red. If you look through a blue (class) colored lens what you see looks blue. However, if you place the red and blue lenses on top of one another what you see looks purple. By using a single lens we are missing the color that is produced when we overlay these lenses one on top of the other. (back)
8 - This finding mirrors the findings of Cohen (1998) in her study of mature returning students in an elite college. Like this student, the women studied by Cohen found that positive classroom experiences contributed to their re-conceptualization of their role in this elite college environment from "lesser than" to different. For this student, finding pockets or places of racial belonging contributed to her sense of racial belonging and subsequent feelings of racial empowerment. (back)
9 - This is similar to the findings of Jackson who examined the collegiate experiences of Black women. She found that they incorporated both their race and gender into their self-concept. This article is a fine example of an effort to consider the effects of the multiple identities of students in educational settings. (back)
10 - To be sure, not all students accepted these race and class arrangements as the natural order. Voices of dissent and frustration were heard. However, the dominant ethos or perspective at the school was one of resignation.

Erin McNamara Horvat

Erin McNamara Horvat is an Assistant Professor of Urban Education at Temple University in Philadelphia PA. She is also Director of the Temple Young Scholars Program, a four-year college preparatory program that provides academic enrichment in math, science and technology as well as programming aimed at creating a college going culture among North Philadelphia high school students. Professor Horvat's research agenda has focused on issues of access and equity in education. Her main fields of interest are urban education, sociology of education, and higher education. Her work has explored empirically how race and class shape access throughout the educational pipeline. She has used the work of Pierre Bourdieu extensively as a theoretical frame for her work and is interested in applying and extending Bourdieu's theoretical concepts. Recent work with YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School as well as with YouthBuild USA has explored how to move students who have left school prematurely back into the educational pipeline.