When Race and Class Collide: Classism and Social-Emotional Experiences of First-Generation College Students

Garriott et al. / Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice / February 2021

Scholarship devoted to first-generation college students has increased rapidly over the past decade, with studies demonstrating first-generation students are systematically disadvantaged compared to their continuing-generation peers. Recently, scholars have critiqued the treatment of first-generation students as a monolith and encouraged complicating their experiences using intersectionality as an analytic tool. This study examined the association between institutional classism and students’ social-emotional experiences in higher education, and how these relations vary based on sociorace, first-generation college student status, and subjective social status. In a sample (N = 742) of college students from two four-year public institutions, results showed that the strength of the association between institutional classism and social-emotional experiences varied at different intersections of first-generation status, sociorace, and subjective social status. These findings demonstrate the importance of contextualizing first-generation students’ experiences and have implications for efforts to retain first-generation students in higher education.