Are Networks Great Equalizers? Social Class, Intergenerational Closure, and Parental Involvement in Elementary Schools



Previous research has highlighted the potential benefits of social capital for improving student learning, but has overlooked ways social capital can be transformed into cultural capital and thereby influence parenting practices across school socioeconomic contexts. Building upon Bourdieu’s theory of capital conversion, we examine the relationships between intergenerational closure—numbers of connections among parents in a school—and two forms of parental involvement in education, including school-oriented home activities and concerted cultivation. Using nationally representative data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Class of 2010-2011, we investigate whether intergenerational closure affects home involvement and concerted cultivation activities net of individual- and school-level factors, and whether those associations vary by school socioeconomic status. Mixed effects models show that intergenerational closure is significantly and positively associated with both home involvement and concerted cultivation activities, particularly the latter. Further, network size has positive effects on home involvement activities across school socioeconomic contexts, but has stronger effects on concerted cultivation in socioeconomically disadvantaged schools. We interpret these results as suggesting that larger parent networks can help diffuse knowledge, practices and status competitions in relatively disadvantaged schools, which in turn can bolster and equalize parental involvement.


Angran Li is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Zhejiang University, China. His research interests include social stratification, sociology of education, family, urban and neighborhood sociology, and quantitative research methods. His research has been published in journals such as Social Forces, Social Science Research, Sociology of Education, Social Currents, Chinese Sociological Review, Chinese Journal of Sociology, and other journals.

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