Document Type

Honors Project


Socioeconomic status (SES) can greatly impact individuals’ college experience (e.g., Astin, 1993; Roksa & Velex, 2010). However, extant research has emphasized the effect of individual-level SES measures and unintentionally obfuscated the role that school-level SES may play in students’ academic outcomes. The present study was designed to determine the predictive power that participants’ individual SES (income) and contextual SES (percentage of student body in poverty) has for students’ course self-efficacy and engagement behaviors. Participants (N = 230) from five private Midwestern colleges reported their individual SES (income), course self-efficacy, engagement behaviors, and sense of school belonging. Additional data representing the institution-specific representation of poverty at participants’ high schools and colleges was also obtained. At the individual level, students from families with higher incomes tended to have higher academic self-efficacy, and mediation analyses confirmed that school belonging fully mediated the relationship between participant income and course self-efficacy. At the contextual level, students from higher income backgrounds who attended colleges with a higher percentage of students in poverty than at their high school tended to report fewer engagement behaviors. Among students from families with lower incomes, however, experiencing changes in contextual representation of poverty were not associated with engagement behaviors. Overall, these results underscore the importance of examining socioeconomic status as an inherently contextual variable.

Included in

Psychology Commons



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