Research Library

Search over three decades of research on mindsets, including Mindset Scholars Network briefs and working papers, and other publications from Network studies and initiatives.

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Differences in structural resources and individual skills contribute to social-class disparities in both U.S. gateway institutions of higher education and professional workplaces. People from working-class contexts also experience cultural barriers that maintain these disparities. In this article, we focus on one critical cultural barrier—the cultural mismatch between (a) the independent cultural norms prevalent in middle-class contexts and U.S. institutions and (b) the interdependent norms common in working-class contexts. In particular, we explain how cultural mismatch can fuel social-class disparities in higher education and professional workplaces. First, we explain how different social-class contexts tend to reflect and foster different cultural models of self. Second, we outline how higher education and professional workplaces often prioritize independence as the cultural ideal. Finally, we describe two key sites of cultural mismatch—norms for understanding the self and interacting with others—and explain their consequences for working-class people’s access to and performance in gateway institutions.

Understanding the sources of the social class achievement gap in education is an important step toward ensuring that education serves its purpose as an engine of social mobility. This article provides a brief overview of the sources of the social class achievement gap as well as interventions aimed at closing this gap. The researchers outline three major sources of the social class achievement gap — individual skills, structural conditions, and people’s processes of meaning-making, or construals — and the interventions that target them. While all of these interventions can effect change, we propose that interventions will be most effective when tailored to fit the specific needs of students and the context in which they are delivered.

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