Colleges and universities bring together people with varied economic backgrounds, but sociologists have demonstrated that social class and family resources stratify students’ experience of higher education. In this paper, I examine how consumerist and activist cultures influence the meaning of money, which influences those who perform wealth. Using interview data from twenty-four students at a small liberal arts college in the midwest, I find dynamics of both displaying and playing down wealth which associate with guilt about money and family wealth, and attempts to distance oneself from the “oppressive” economic class. Together, these collective emotions create an overt culture of wealth hiding; however, these efforts fail to reduce the visibility of wealth inequality due to continued displays of wealth through engagement with the consumerist culture.
Lichtenberg, Greer, "Looking Up and Playing Down: The Paradoxes of Performing Wealth at a Liberal Arts College" (2022). Sociology Honors Projects. 69.
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