The Best Laid Plans: Social Capital and the Development of Girls' Educational and Occupational Plans

Jessica H. Hardie, Pennsylvania State University

This paper draws on theories of social capital to understand how young women develop and plan to accomplish their educational and occupational aspirations. Using data from 61 in-depth interviews, I show that adolescent girls are embedded within family, school, and community social networks, which inform their plans for the future. Social class plays an important role in determining the depth and breadth of available resources. Middle class adolescents lay claim to a wide range of relationships with educated adults who offer assistance in developing future plans. Girls from poor and working class backgrounds are situated in smaller social networks comprised largely of kin and school-affiliated adults. While these adults encourage their school and work-related aspirations, they are less likely to offer information and guidance. Together, these findings reveal the importance of social networks in the lives of young people, and the limits and extensions of current theories of social capital.

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Presented in Session 146: Gender, Race and Class