Extending cultural mismatch theory: in consideration of race/ethnicity

International Studies in Sociology of Education / April 2020

diverse group of students sitting at table

Cultural Mismatch Theory (CMT) has emerged as a paradigm to account for the disparate experiences and outcomes of first-generation students (FGSs). Past research on CMT demonstrate how social class disposition can shape cultural mismatch among FGSs; however, the sole focus on social class sacrifices attention to other social markers of significance. This manuscript explores if FGSs at the intersection of marginalized social class and racial/ethnic identities (working-class, Cambodian American students), experience cultural mismatch and how an institutional mechanism (student organizations) addresses that mismatch. The authors find that through their involvement in a student organization, first-generation, working-class, Cambodian American students foster a community that supports interdependent norms, while simultaneously developing skills to navigate independent norms. These efforts produce cultural match and demonstrate agentic qualities through which students reconfigure moments of cultural mismatch to assert their views of legitimacy and reshape the boundaries of cultural capital.