Despite facing daunting odds of academic success compared with their more socioeconomically advantaged peers, many students from low socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds maintain high levels of academic motivation and persist in the face of difficulty. The researchers propose that for these students, academic persistence may hinge on their perceptions of socioeconomic mobility, or their general beliefs regarding whether or not socioeconomic mobility—a powerful academic motivator—can occur in their society. Specifically, low-SES students' desire to persist on a primary path to mobility (i.e., school) should remain strong if they believe that socioeconomic mobility can occur in their society. By contrast, those who believe that socioeconomic mobility generally does not occur should be less motivated to persist academically. One correlational and two experimental studies provide support for this hypothesis among low (but not high) SES high school and university students. Implications for future intervention efforts are discussed.