Breaking Affluential Grip: Unionization of Models of Mobility

This was written for Washington State University’s SOC-352, Youth and Society, lead by Monica Kirkpatrick Johnson, PhD. Reference missing a year has been corrected.

Yee (2012) asserts that implementing a “college for all” ideology, while affording individuals greater accessibility to college that truly wish to attend, would increase student debt, strain faculty, and squander time and resources (p. 50). Yet there is a pervasive assumption of youth that college must be attended (p. 47), contingent on increasing credentialism blocking middle-class jobs (p. 48). The assumption is not surprising, as a “complete education” is part contemporary adulthood (Furstenberg et al., 2004).

Turning to college and student class division interactions, Hamilton and Armstrong (2012) evidence a “great mismatch” of post-compulsory educational structure catering to affluent students (p. 23) mismatched to those of other class backgrounds (e.g., working- and middle-class; p. 26). In catering to affluent students, top post-compulsory educational institutions maintain “party path” cultures, where less-affluent students are pressured to partake in risky alcohol consumption, social scenes, and social-capital dependent “easy” degrees (e.g., communications, sportscasting, fashion; pp. 24-25; Canty, 2014). “Party path” culture is distracting and frustrating to the less affluent, leaving large debts after dropout (Hamilton & Armstrong, 2012, pp. 24-26).

Armstrong cites a middle-class “wanna-be” student meeting bad ends of affluent influenced education, “nobody told me Disneyland is going to end” (Canty, 2014, 00:17:40). Yee, and Hamilton and Armstrong offer insight as policy makers (at least in the UK perspective) seek to accommodate for “less academic” students (Furlong, 2013, p. 51). If a “collage for all” is going to work, without making class segmentation worse (see Furlong, 2013, p. 50-54), then perhaps an organized working- and middle-class may need to unionize a model of mobility (i.e., bridging capital) to break affluential grip (i.e., bonding capital) on education, and industry.


Canty, C. (2014, March 24). Gender inequality in the college party scene [Radio broadcast]. Michigan Radio. (Links to an external site.)

Furlong, A. (2013). Youth studies: An introduction. Routledge.

Hamilton, L., & Armstrong, E. A. (2012). The (mis)education of Monica and Karen. Contexts, 11(4), 22-27. (Links to an external site.)

Yee, A. (2012). Degree by default. Contexts, 11(4), 46-50.