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Social Class and Sense of Belonging: A Quantitative, Intersectional Analysis Open Access

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The purpose of this study is to understand how social class background plays a role in student experiences on selective campuses. This study centers the experience of low-income students and extends the work of Ostrove and Long (2007). Previous research has indicated that race, gender, and social class status have each, respectively, been demonstrated to have statistically significant relationships to sense of belonging. This research affirms existing research, but also finds that there are more positive relationships than previously theorized. Minoritized students had higher mean scores related to personal-emotional adjustment and social adjustment. Students from the lowest social class also reported higher scores on the same two adjustment scales than their peers.Based in the theory of critical quantitative analysis (Stage, 2007), the research uses the Student Adaptation to College Questionnaire (Baker & Siryk, 1999) in order to assess sense of belonging. This survey measures overall sense of belonging, academic adjustment, social adjustment personal-emotional adjustment and institutional attachment. Examining these measures in an intersectional way revealed results that were more nuanced than was previously found in the literature. The data was analyzed using simple linear regression, analysis of variance, and hierarchical multiple regression. The survey was conducted among undergraduate students at The George Washington University, a private, urban institution in Washington, D.C.In demonstrating that minoritized and economically and educationally challenged students may be adjusting better than has been previously stated, this study emphasizes the need to affirm students in the identities they hold for themselves rather than studying them through deficit models. Reinforcing the cultural and social norms of marginalized groups aids in their personal growth and development, which often leads to a university’s desired outcome, which is retention and graduation.

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