Capital conversion and accumulation: A social portrait of legacies at an elite university


Journal Article

Legacies, or students with a family member who graduated from the same college or university, have been the source of much debate. We add to the existing literature by providing a detailed empirical portrait of legacies at a private, selective university across the college years. We examine how legacies are distinctive in their admissions profiles, within-college achievement and post-graduation plans, using data from a panel study of students attending Duke University. We find that legacies enter college with an abundance of economic, cultural and social capital, but also have lower levels of human capital compared to other students with college graduate parents. Due to this human capital deficit, legacies have lower grades in the first college year, but show little academic underperformance in subsequent semesters. Additionally, legacies are less likely to plan to be a medical doctor or engineer and have somewhat lower degree aspirations than other students. © Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Martin, ND; Spenner, KI

Published Date

  • November 1, 2009

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 50 / 7

Start / End Page

  • 623 - 648

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0361-0365

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1007/s11162-009-9136-9

Citation Source

  • Scopus