CAMD Scholar Angela Leocata Discusses Economic Status in Education

Socioeconomic class does not just affect how individuals act in social situations, but also influences everything from their preparedness for standardized testing to their eloquence, according to Angela Leocata ’13.

Leocata presented her CAMD Scholar project “The American Reality: The Effect of Socioeconomic Class on The Educational Process” on Friday, discussing the extent to which wealth determines the path of students’ schooling.

Low-income children are half as likely to visit museums, theaters and other cultural places. They are also provided with less child care, less educational readiness for higher institutions and grow up to speak differently than children of higher classes, according to Leocata.

Leocata conducted her research over the summer by interviewing educators and current Andover students. She discussed with members of the community how they thought wealth personally affected students at Andover.

“Institutions that practice the need-blind admissions policy admit students without regards to their financial backgrounds. The policy has actually transformed elite education into a merit-based system. Many educators believe that it has acted as a distractor to the ongoing inequality,” said Leocata.

“Class is influenced not solely by economic capital, what you earn or own, but also social capital, who you know, and cultural capital, what you know,” she continued.

In addition to its effect on Andover’s community, disparity in socioeconomic class is evident after high school, according to Leocata. Lower economic status in college can lower student’s confidence and lead to classism, prejudice against others based upon distinctions in social class.

“Whether or not [a student’s] parents received college degrees is the most clear indicator of whether they will attend college. Often, high school and college students from a working class family are given less educational opportunities and as a result, hide their class identity,” said Leocata.

Furthermore, Leocata said that the difference between a low-income student’s home community and their educational community can create a division between students and their parents.

“Often in working class families, there is a gap between the cultural capitals of the children and their parents. Due to their parent’s lack of experience, students are sometimes embarrassed by the presence of their parents and look at them in a different lens,” said Leocata.

Leocata further explored the experience of socioeconomic identity in the context of the Andover community. She interviewed several Andover students who were on full scholarship.

“Hearing the voices of Andover students who are currently on financial aid was the most powerful and interesting part of my presentation,” said Leocata in an interview with The Phillipian.

According to her presentation, 47 percent of Andover’s student body currently receives some portion of financial aid.The percentage of students on full scholarship at Andover varies from 11-15 percent by grade level, according to Leocata.

To discover the social impact of economic status at Andover, Leocata conducted a survey of Andover students. The survey yielded that 64.3 percent of the students on financial aid felt their socioeconomic statuses had affected their academic life, 70.4 percent felt it affected their social life and 53.6 percent of students felt that because of their socioeconomic status they were at a disadvantage in the college process.

“Socioeconomic class is embedded in us all. It is an essential part of our identity that we carry with us throughout our lives. It shapes our development, affects where we are educated, and measures our chances of achieving. For some, socioeconomic class is an identity that has been carried lightly. But for others, it has been a constant reminder of where they have been, what they have seen and where they want to progress,” said Leocata.

Following Leocata’s presentation, Dr. Ricardo Dobles ’85 offered Leocata comments on her presentation and fielded audience questions.

Dobles discussed the issue of socioeconomic identity in the education system in his own narrative and continued to discuss the educational barriers that children face due to class identity.

Mr. Lou Bernieri, Instructor in English, served as Leocata’s CAMD scholar advisor.

“Although I am on a sabbatical right now, I still decided to help Angela with her project because I loved her research topic. Coming from a working-class family, I was very well aware of this issue and was very glad when Angela brought it up,” he said.

Leocata’s presentation was the fifth and final CAMD Scholar presentation this year.