(1) Age Differences
In research with students at the University of Newcastle, Rubin and Wright found that age differences help to explain social class differences in students’ friendships. They surveyed 376 first-year undergraduate psychology students and found that working-class students had fewer identity-relevant friends. Moreover, age differences explained this social class effect: Working-class students tended to have fewer friends than middle-class students because they tended to be older than middle-class students.
(2) Time and Money
In subsequent research, the researchers surveyed 433 students at the University of Newcastle and 416 students at the University of Central Florida. They found that (a) working-class students tended to be older than middle-class students, (b) older students tended to have more paid work and childcare commitments than younger students, (c) students with more of these commitments tended to spend less time on campus, and (d) students who spent less time on campus tended to be less socially integrated at university. They also found that working-class students tended to be less satisfied with their finances, and that this social class difference in financial satisfaction helped to explain their lack of social integration. Hence, as illustrated in the diagram below, working-class students tended to be social excluded at university because they were both financially poor and time poor.
|A Model of Social Class Differences in Social Integration at University|
As Mark Rubin has argued elsewhere, a potentially important method of improving working-class students’ academic outcomes is to improve the quality and quantity of their university friendships and social integration. University friends can help to explain coursework assignments, remind one another about due dates, act as study buddies, provide a shoulder to cry on during stressful periods, and instil a sense of belonging and institutional identification that increases degree commitment and persistence. The present research shows that working-class students are most in need of this type of support, and it points the way towards interventions that might assist working-class students to take advantage of information and social support networks.
For more information about this research program, please see the following recent journal articles:
Rubin, M., & Wright, C. (2015). Age differences explain social class differences in students’ friendship at university: Implications for transition and retention. Higher Education, 70, 427-439. doi: 10.1007/s10734-014-9844-8 Please click here for a self-archived version.
Rubin, M.,& Wright, C. L. (2015). Time and money explainsocial class differences in students’ social integration at university. Studies in Higher Education. doi: 10.1080/03075079.2015.1045481 Please click here for a self-archived version.