Same Folks, Different Strokes: Class, Culture, and the “New” Diversity at Elite Colleges and Universities
Anthony Abraham Jack

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



Harvard University

Primary Discipline

Elite colleges are diversifying at unprecedented rates, both racially and socioeconomically. Campuses now look very little like they did ten years ago let alone 100. Many applaud college presidents and deans of admission for opening their doors, and their coffers, to admit and support new admits. But how far have the doors really been opened? These same colleges get their nontraditional students from traditional sources, their new diversity from old places. Half of the lower-income black undergraduates at elite colleges who hail from single-parent homes and segregated, distressed neighborhoods graduate from boarding, day, and preparatory schools like Exeter and Andover. A third of lower-income Latino undergraduates enter college from prestigious high schools like Brearley and Choate. What are the implications of elite colleges hedging their bets by admitting a disproportionate number of their lower-income undergraduates from elite preparatory high schools, those who I call the Privileged Poor? How are their experiences different from their lower-income counterparts who lack similar precollege exposure to elite academic environments, those who I call the Doubly Disadvantaged? Drawing on in-depth, targeted life history interviews with 102 black, Latino, and white undergraduates and two years of ethnographic observation at an elite university, this dissertation explores how differential precollege exposure to inequality and poverty influences undergraduate’s college experiences and discusses the implications of this overlooked diversity for sociological theory, higher education practices, and social policy.
About Anthony Abraham Jack
Anthony (Tony) Jack is a PhD. Candidate in Sociology and an Associate Doctoral Fellow in the Multidisciplinary Program in Inequality & Social Policy at Harvard University where he is a cultural sociologist interested in education and inequality. He examines the experiences of undergraduates at elite colleges and universities amidst expanding race- and class-based affirmative actions measures. Using in-depth interviews and ethnographic observation of college life, he examines what influences undergraduates’ sense of belonging, their acquisition of cultural and social capital, boundary processes that influence intergroup relations, and how institutional policies affect these processes. His research documents the overlooked divergent experiences of lower-income undergraduates: the Doubly Disadvantaged¬—those who enter college from distressed public schools—and Privileged Poor¬—those who do so from boarding, day, and preparatory high schools. In so doing, he examines how class and culture, sometimes independently, influence the reproduction of inequality in higher education. His work appears in the Du Bois Review and Sociological Forum. Additionally, the New York Times, Boston Globe, and American RadioWorks have featured his research on first-generation college students and biographical profiles.

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