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Social Science Research

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Education -- Social aspects -- United States, Education -- United States


We investigate the possibility that Bourdieu’s concept of cultural capital, ways of being that facilitate assimilation to the dominant culture, is field-specific in its manifestation and intergenerational transmission. We focus on a field of central economic and academic interest: STEM. Data on around 13,000 undergraduates from the large nationally representative High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 indicate that parents’ STEM-specific cultural capital positively contributes to youth’s selection of and persistence in STEM majors in the form of parents’ STEM education. We find that transmission is enacted through youths’ field-specific institutionalized cultural capital (e.g., STEM grades and test scores), field-specific embodied cultural capital (e.g., STEM attitudes), and characteristics of their educational institutions (e.g., four-year rather than two-year college). This study contributes to the theory of cultural capital by examining cultural capital through a field-specific lens, and then specifically elucidating how it is expressed and transmitted within that field.


Copyright: © 2021 The authors. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Social Science Research. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published as: Tilbrook, Ned, and Dara Shifrer. 2021. “Domain-Specific Cultural Capital and Persistence in College.” Social Science Research Published online first:



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