Background: A growing number of scholars argue that Hispanic–White disparities in college pathways are at least partly attributable to the fact that Hispanic students experience the college preparation and enrollment process differently from their White peers. Recent research suggests that one way in which the process differs between the two groups is in how parent resources, and particularly forms of parent social capital, facilitate college preparation and enrollment.
Purpose: This study examines whether group-level variability in the utility of parent social capital can help explain the recent finding that parent income and education confer greater benefits among White youth, relative to similar Hispanic youth, when it comes to 4-year college enrollment. The study also asks whether engagement in college-aligned actions might mediate the association between parent social capital and college enrollment.
Participants: The study focuses on a nationally representative sample of Hispanic and White 10th graders in 2002 who completed high school expecting to complete a bachelor’s degree.
Research Design: The study uses multiple group structural equation modeling techniques and three waves of data from the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:2002) to test whether forms of parent social capital indirectly influence 4-year college enrollment through an association with college-aligned actions. Multiple group invariance testing is used to test whether associations of interest are measurably different across the two groups.
Conclusions: The results suggest that Hispanic–White differences in the intergenerational transmission of parents’ educational and economic resources can be partly attributed to differences in the functioning of parent social capital. This finding is consistent with the assertion that social capital often serves as a hidden form of capital—and mechanism of stratification—by facilitating the conversion of tangible resources into advantageous outcomes.