Habitus congruence and college student experiences in social, academic, and racial domains

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To better understand inequality in higher education, we qualitatively explore students’ fit in college using three domains based in theories by Bourdieu, Du Bois, and Bonilla-Silva: academic, social, and racial. We demonstrate the interconnected nature of these three domains, how students’ habitus shift over time, and students’ agency as they navigate college. We interviewed 18 students at two points in time: during their first or second year in college, and again during their third or fourth year. Our analysis reveals weaknesses in Bourdieu’s theory with respect to ways that race affects students’ pathways through college. We also demonstrate how Du Bois and Bourdieu can be used together to create a more complete theoretical basis of student experiences by explicitly incorporating double consciousness with habitus. To help students succeed, we call for more explicit articulation of the sociocultural expectations in higher education, as well as identification and removal of barriers to success that result from both hidden expectations and structural aspects of racial inequality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalInternational Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education
StatePublished - Feb 13 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Higher education
  • academic capital
  • race
  • racial structure
  • social capital


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