Is There a Way out? Cultural Capital and Educational Outcomes of Young People Who Grew up in Poverty

Monday, 11 July 2016: 16:45
Location: Hörsaal BIG 2 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Tanja VUCKOVIC JUROS, Faculty of Law, University of Zagreb, Croatia
Ana TOKIC MILAKOVIC, University of Zagreb, Croatia
Despite the proclaimed policy calls for educational equity (see, for example, the 2013 Council of the European Union's conclusions on the social dimension of higher education), social reproduction of inequality through education remains a problem of many European societies. In fact, the current economic crisis in Europe and high levels of youth unemployment combined with the increasing commodification of higher education, often mean that individuals need ever higher academic qualifications in order to compete on the labour market full of young people with BA and MA degrees from various public and private institutions. This task is challenging in itself for individuals from less privileged backgrounds. But for young people who grew up in poverty this is sometimes almost an unsurmountable obstacle since, during their educational careers, they often lacked both the financial and structural resources, as well as cultural capital, to put them on the university track, and to give them access to jobs that can ensure their upward social mobility. In our research, we spotlight this vulnerable group of young Croatian people from poor family backgrounds. Based on a survey of young people coming from households on social welfare during their high school years, we examine factors that contributed to their successful and unsuccessful educational outcomes. In our analysis, we focus in particular on the role of cultural capital in its multiple operationalizations. We also examine how cultural capital interacts with other individual, family and social factors, especially among the individuals with more successful educational trajectories. Our results help identify factors that may serve to reduce social inequality by increasing chances of social mobility through education for the young people who grew up in poverty.