Systems of inequality: Student indebtedness and early labor market incorporation
The centrality of higher education in reinforcing class, gender, and ethnic inequality is more complex than traditional economic-reductionism. explanations of social reproduction imply. This project represents a critical sociology of education, which recognizes social facts as simultaneously resulting from structure and agency. In addition, the social stratification system is defined by interlocking systems of race, class, and gender inequality. The over-reliance on student loans to finance higher education represents the role of the state in reproducing the stratification system through higher education policies. Although access to higher education has expanded for historically excluded social groups, this access has been accompanied with a shift in the financial responsibility for college finance towards the individual. As a result, class and ethnic privileges are reproduced, because of federal financial aid policy which encourages student loans, and because of ongoing ethnic and gender labor market discrimination. The successive stages of this analysis use a nationally representative sample of 1992--93 college graduates from the National Center for Education Statistic's Baccalaureate & Beyond 93/94 longitudinal dataset. The results provide empirical evidence that class privileges are experienced differentially across ethnic groups and by gender. In addition, the higher education hierarchy represents an important interaction effect on patterns of college finance, which is especially important for disadvantaged class and ethnic social groups. Taken together, this analysis of student indebtedness and early labor market incorporation substantiates the existence of White ethnic privilege that transcends gender. Although access to higher education is insufficient in itself to alleviate widespread ethnic, class, and gender inequality, higher education remains an important institutional site in the struggle for an inclusive, mutually respectful, and non-hierarchical social system.