Notes on Paying for the Party

by VanessaVaile

Bryan Alexander

Paying for the PartyPaying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality is a powerful, carefully researched, and ultimately furious work of social science. Its target is higher education – specifically, how female students make it through large public research universities, and how they don’t. Elizabeth Armstrong and Laura Hamilton conclude that such campuses are doing a bad job for many students, and break this down meticulously.

The book is based on research conducted on a group of students attending “Midwestern University” (Ohio State, maybe?). The authors spent a great deal of time with 45 or so undergraduate women, living for part of a year on their shared dorm room floor. The resulting book is rich with conversations, analysis, and as much longitudinal followup as time permitted.

Armstrong and Hamilton identify a series of pathways students can take through the university experience. These include pathways based on partying, mobility (increasing class status), and professional attainment…

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