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Publisher's PDF

Publication Title

American Journal of Education



Publication Date



This article, synthesizing the available (published and unpublished) evidence, describes patterns of inclusion of African-Americans, women, and working-class youth into the system of higher education from 1960 to 1986. Focusing not only on whether access has increased, but on whether these subordinate groups have gained access to elite institutions, this article examines the three groups in and across two periods (1960-76; 1976-86) to highlight differential patterns of access and to suggest a plausible explanation involving political mobilization to account for the observed trends. Although the general expansion of the system of higher education since 1960 has led to reduced differentials in access between dominant and subordinate groups, women and blacks who mobilized were able to gain access even to elite institutions. Working-class youth did not experience such gains. A key factor that mediates these benefits of political mobilization is the recognition of the group as an official category in the society's system of classification. Using a variety of data sources, this article shows that, during times of both mobilization and countermobilization, access to particular levels of the higher education hierarchy generally follows the hypothesized directions. Further research that focuses on the precise mechanisms by which political mobilization produces the observed results is called for.



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