Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy


Comparative and International Education

First Adviser

Wiseman, Alexander W.


This research investigated the attainment of bachelor degrees by students from different immigrant generational backgrounds and income levels in the United States through the additional family capital variables of student educational expectations, parental educational attainment, and two-parent households. As the nation continues to mature, gaps in higher education attainment between income groups continue to expand. The educational attainment of students across income groups and among immigrant generations has significant implications for the nation’s future regarding equality and workforce capabilities. This study explored how family capital interacts with income and generational status to influence the completion of bachelor degrees. The theoretical framework places cultural capital as its main lens of understanding and supports that concept with a social capital consideration. Additional theoretical support comes from conflict and ecological systems theories. The research used a quantitative design through the use of the publicly-available large-scale survey data from the National Center of Education Statistics, the Educational Longitudinal Survey of 2002 and its third follow-up of 2012 (n ~ 16097). Through quantitative analysis, this study compared expectations and predicted outcomes by analyzing variables influencing higher education attainment. The findings showed that expectations for university graduation are almost universally high and are the most significant predictor in degree completion, and that second-generation immigrants and Asian students are likely to outperform their peers in higher education attainment. This investigation will inform the development of policies and programs to address educational and socio-economic inequalities by confirming some existing positions on immigrant and minority populations, expanding the concept of immigrant status and educational attainment, and yielding new insight on the expectations and outcomes of students across multiple reference categories which warrant further investigation.