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High-achieving students from low-income and working-class backgrounds are less likely than their middle- and upper-middle class peers to submit applications to the nation’s top colleges and universities. In Unequal Choices, Professor Yang Lor examines the college application choices of these students and situates their decisions within the larger context of the family, school, and community. Lor identifies several mechanisms behind the reproduction of social inequality, showing how institutions and families of the middle- and upper-middle class work to procure advantages by cultivating dispositions among their children for specific types of higher education opportunities. As a result, middle-class youth apply to leading universities and colleges across the country because they are told from multiple sources that such colleges are appropriate and because they understand college as an opportunity to accumulate new experiences. In contrast, low-income and working-class students tend to limit their choices to colleges and universities close to home, even when they have knowledge about top colleges, because they understand college as a continuation of family interdependence that requires them to factor in their family needs. Social class differences in where students submit college applications are shaped not only by access to information but the context under which such information is received and the life experiences students draw upon to make sense of higher education. Institutional contexts like high schools and college preparation programs shaped the type of colleges that students deemed appropriate for them, while family upbringing and experiences influenced how far from home students imagined they could apply to college.

Date & Time

October 4, 2023
12:00pm - 1:30pm


Online via Zoom




Center for Research on Social Change