Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

David M. Merolla


It is well documented that African Americans attend college at a lower rate than whites. However, African Americans' rate of aspiring to attend college is not lower than whites; rather their aspirations are higher than those of whites. Because there is such disparity between African American's educational aspirations and attainment, further investigation into this paradox is necessary. Literature shows that membership in the middle class generally equips one with greater resources that prepare them for college. If such research is accurate, middle class African American students should possess college preparatory resources and attend college. Because this is not the case, and the paradox exists, the current project examines the heterogeneity of the middle class and the role that such heterogeneity plays in the distribution of resources. Utilizing data from the Educational Longitudinal Survey 2002 & 2006, students were divided into three groups: lower middle, solid middle, and upper middle classes. Such divisions show disparities in resources, which are linked to students' realization of their aspirations to attend college. Accordingly, the common usage of middle class nomenclature includes people that are very dissimilar. In fact, the majority of middle class African Americans tend to occupy the lower rungs of the middle class, lacking most college preparatory resources. If we deny the heterogeneity of the middle class, many social programs will continue to ignore this group, rendering it self-sufficient and not in need of assistance from social programs.