Irene Vega

Understanding how a college degree impacts Latinx upward mobility among current and future generations is the focus of a new study by Irene Vega, UCI sociology assistant professor.

“I am particularly interested in how having a college education shapes cultural capital - knowledge and behaviors needed to effectively navigate dominant institutions - and how this type of capital shapes status transmission,” she says.

Her comparative work draws from interviews with Latinx people who have achieved mobility via higher education versus those who earn a similar living without a bachelor’s degree.

Supported by a grant from the National Research Center on Hispanic Children & Families, findings will help researchers understand the degree to which having a college education matters beyond economic resources in sustaining generational mobility gains.

Vega earned her Ph.D. in sociology at UCLA. She spent two years as a Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow in UCI’s Department of Criminology, Law and Society before becoming a faculty member in sociology. She was honored this year as the American Sociological Association Latina/o Sociology Section Distinguished Article Award recipient for “'Reasonable' Force at the U.S.-Mexico Border," which appeared in Social Problems last year. She was also named a 2022-23 Career Enhancement Fellow by the Institute for Citizens & Scholars, an honor that supports completion of her book on the moral economy - unspoken norms, values, and sensibilities - that shapes immigration agents’ work. 

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