Sociology Index


Cultural capital comprises the social assets of a person that promote social mobility in a stratified society. Cultural capital includes the cultural knowledge that confers social status and power. Cultural capital can refer to both achieved status and ascribed status characteristics. Parents provide children with cultural capital, the attitudes and knowledge that make them succeed easily. Cultural capital can lead to social capital, which refers to one's membership in groups, relationships, and networks. Pierre Bourdieu points out that cultural capital is a major source of social inequality. Certain forms of cultural capital are valued over others, and can help or hinder one’s social mobility just as much as income or wealth.

The school can also be seen as bestowing cultural capital on students, improving the equality of opportunity for those groups not already in possession of this capital or cultural capital that is essential for maintaining an open class society. While “economic capital” helped explain the material advantages that the middle and upper classes controlled across society, “cultural capital” facilitated educational inequality. Certain children were at an advantage at school because they had greater access at home to cultural capital.

Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of cultural capital suggests that cultural “assets” such as education and taste are accumulated and passed down between generations in the same manner as financial capital or wealth (1984). Cultural assets include such things as knowing how to wear a suit or having an educated manner of speaking. The children of parents with a postsecondary degree are more likely to attend university themselves, while the children of parents with less than a high school education have only a lesser chance of attending university. Cultural capital is capital also in the sense of an investment. Bourdieu argued that the privilege accorded to those who hold cultural capital is a means of reproducing the power of the ruling classes. People with improper cultural attributes have difficulty attaining the same privileged status. Cultural capital becomes a key measure of distinction between social strata.

Cultural capital refers to the way that schools reflect standards of cultural expression and definitions of valued abilities that are characteristic of the socially and economically dominant class in society. Students who bring this cultural capital which is a form of human capital to the school, are apt to be most successful in meeting criteria set by the schools. Pierre Bourdieu and Jean-Claude Passeron in their book "Cultural Reproduction and Social Reproduction" Passeron presented cultural capital to conceptually explain the differences among the levels of performance and academic achievement of children within the educational system of France in the 1960s.

Social and Cultural Capital in an Urban Latino School Community 
Karen Monkman, DePaul University, Margaret Ronald, Florida State University.
The concepts of social capital and cultural capital explain how inequality is reproduced in schools. High-status cultural practices and knowledge, and access to these through elite social networks, become the indications through which success is recognized and rewarded. However, it is in the dynamics of negotiating social and cultural capital that processes of social reproduction can potentially be upset and derailed.

Cultural Capital and Social Inequality in the Life Course Werner Georg, Universitat Konstanz.
In many surveys, such as PISA, the German educational system shows a strong social inequality, particularly in the transition to higher education (‘Gymnasium’) and to university. Above all, rational choice models and approaches from conflict theory are used as tools for the explanation of these findings. In this contribution, the capital theory of Pierre Bourdieu is tested on the basis of a follow-up survey, which refers to the ages between sixteen and thirty-five. As a result it can be shown that there is a substantial reproduction effect by the transmission of cultural capital in the family.

Converting Cultural Capital Among Teen Refugees and Their Families From Bosnia-Herzegovina Stevan M. Weine, M.D., Norma Ware, Ph.D. and Alma Klebic, B.A. OBJECTIVES: The objective of this study was to identify the processes by which teen refugees adapt and apply cultural capital in conditions of refuge in order to develop preventive interventions for refugee youths.

Occupational Inheritance: The Role of Cultural Capital and Gender 
Muriel Egerton: Cathy Marsh Centre for Census and Survey Research, Manchester University. It is known that occupational destination is influenced by family cultural resources. Most research on the effects of cultural capital, using nationally representative datasets, has concentrated on paternal occupation and education, finding that higher levels of paternal education are associated with greater educational and occupational attainment. As a result cultural capital has been put forward as a partial explanation for intergenerational class stability. It has been argued that occupational inheritance is more marked for the professional than for the managerial sector of the middle class, due to their greater cultural capital (Savage et al. 1992).

Cultural Capital and Educational Attainment - Alice Sullivan, Nuffield College Oxford. According to Bourdieu's theory of cultural reproduction, children from middle-class families are advantaged in gaining educational credentials due to their possession of cultural capital. In order to assess this theory, I have developed a broad operationalisation of the concept of cultural capital, and have surveyed pupils on both their own and their parents' cultural capital. I will conclude that cultural capital is transmitted within the home and does have a significant effect on performance in the General Certificate of Secondary Education examinations. However, a large, direct effect of social class on attainment remains when cultural capital has been controlled for.

The Uneven Distribution of Cultural Capital - Shaoguang Wang, The Chinese University of Hong Kong - Deborah Davis, Yale University.
Yanjie Bian, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
This exploratory study focuses on variation in reading habits to integrate the concept of cultural capital into the theoretical and empirical analysis of inequality and social stratification in contemporary urban China. Overall, we find that volume and composition of cultural capital varies across social classes independent of education. Thus, to the extent that cultural capital in the form of diversified knowledge and appreciation for certain genres or specific authors is unevenly distributed across social classes, we hypothesize that the possession of cultural capital may be a valuable resource in defining and crystallizing class boundaries in this hybrid, fast-changing society.

Cultural capital: strengths, weaknesses and two advancements - Herman G. van de Werfhorst.
Abstract: In this paper I discuss two weaknesses in Bourdieu’s work on cultural capital, both of which are related to his integration of the multidimensional nature of social space in different domains of life: social mobility, lifestyle differentiation, and political orientation. First, there is an anomaly between the work on social mobility and on lifestyles. Multiple dimensions of social origin (cultural and economic capital) are related to uni‐dimensional outcomes (e.g. schooling levels), whereas it would be more appropriate to study multidimensional schooling outcomes too. Secondly, although Bourdieu sees a close resemblance in the type of resources affecting lifestyle preferences and political orientations, I argue that these outcomes are affected by two different types of resources: cultural and communicative resources. Proposals for progress, including a review of the empirical results supporting these, are given.