Author ORCID Identifier

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Charol Shakeshaft

Second Advisor

Dr. Jeffery Wilson

Third Advisor

Dr. Michael Broda

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Sergio Chaparro


In recent years, especially after the publication in 2000 of Robert Putnam’s book Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Society, there has been a heightened interest in the concept of social capital. Many scholars have made the connection between social capital and education by examining its effects on educational outcomes. However, a lot still needs to be understood. The aim of this dissertation is to provide a better understanding of the influence of social capital on the higher education academic achievement of American students. Using data from Waves I, II, and IV of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health) this study explored how the domains and types of social capital make a difference to educational outcomes in higher education. The longitudinal design of Add Health data allowed for extracting a large number of variables to represent the different domains of social capital. Variables that correlated appropriately with the networks, reciprocity, and trust inherent in social relationships were isolated to represent family, school, and neighborhood social capital. Cross-classified multilevel models were used to analyze the data to determine which domains of social capital were the strongest contributor to college graduation. The models also examined if gender, racial identity, and children’s agency influenced the relationship.

The findings of this dissertation support prior research in the area of social capital that highlights the importance of schools, family relationships, and neighborhood characteristics on educational success. Consistent with other studies, this current study shows that White students have higher odds of completing higher education than students from other racial and ethnic groups. This study also suggests that females more than males have an advantage when it comes to social capital and educational outcomes. However, the effects of the different domains of social capital differ for different groups of students and are impacted by the school and neighborhood contexts. In addition, this study found that parental income and occupation, more than parental education, appeared to increase the impact of the different domains of social capital on academic achievement. These results add to existing theory on the social capital and academic achievement in America. A major implication of this study is the importance of social capital to educational outcomes of American students. The study also shows that a lack of understanding of the impact of the different domains of social capital on higher education academic achievement may result in poorly designed education reform interventions and policies. This dissertation highlights the need for more research in the area of social capital and educational outcomes globally.


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