Universities, status groups, and hierarchies of worth among college students in Mexico
MetadataShow full item record
This research investigated the basis upon which undergraduates construct notions of social honor and the role higher educational institutions play in the consolidation of status group cultures in Mexico. The topics I analyzed included the criteria college students use to evaluate the worthiness of their peers and friends and the meaning they attach to studying at certain higher educational institutions. This study drew primarily on 65 in-depth interviews and four focus group sessions with 15 students enrolled at socioeconomically stratified private and public higher educational institutions in a large city. I also relied on an institutional analysis of the higher educational institutions where I did my research to complement the analysis. The findings of this research show that there are institutional similarities in relation to the moral criteria undergraduates use to evaluate the worthiness of their friends and peers. However, there are important institutional differences showing that Mexico’s system of higher education attracts and trains at least four status groups. The status groups cultures associated with educational credentials show that there are significant cultural and socioeconomic distinctions within the high cost private sector. In particular, there is a clash between an old pedigree status group for which social connections are of outmost importance and a new emerging upper-middle class that competes through the rigorous academic training its undergraduates receive. The other two status groups are composed of lay and large public universities that attract middle-class students and demand-absorption institutions that train students who did not gain admission to public universities or who want to avoid the negative stereotypes associated with public universities. Undergraduates from these two last groups occupy the bottom of the occupational and prestige hierarchy. This research also shows that most of the internal hierarchies undergraduates use to rank their peers do not transcend the walls of a specific college. However, the testimonies of high class students revealed that members from this social stratum determine the worthiness of others based on residential location. This dissertation also shows that socioeconomic and cultural boundaries provide some of the most important sources of symbolic divisions among college students in Mexico.