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Research Finds Connections between Socioeconomics Status and Student Development during 1st Year of College


by Jewel Caruso

McBee Institute community members Gregory Wolniak and Matthew Gregory co-authored a study with Marjolein Muskens that appears in the March issue of The Review of Higher Education

The research article, "The Relative Influence of Subjective and Objective Socioeconomic Status on the Noncognitive Development of First-Year College Students," explored associations between status, aspirations, and sense of belonging of first-year college students, the extent to which status influences development during the course of the year, and how status compares with other demographic characteristics.

Specifically, the authors independently considered both objective and subjective socioeconomic status (SES) in the study. Wolniak, Gregory, and Muskens define objective SES as parental/family income, occupation, education attainment, and material possession. They note that this is the basis of most education research. The team added subjective SES, which they describe as a person's belief about their location in status order.

In their main findings, the researchers found evidence that the less-studied subjective SES self-image appears more consequential than objective SES. They write, "Subjective SES has greater associations with noncognitive traits at the start of college than objective SES."

Wolniak, Gregory, and Muskens assert that these findings are important indicators of where future research should focus attention, "We hope that future studies will build on our findings by focusing explicitly on [how] noncognitive development may differ across student identity groups."

To read the full research article, visit here.

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