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Inequality in the Extracurriculum: How Class, Race, and Gender Shape College Involvement

Sociological Forum

Published online on

Abstract

["\nExtracurricular involvement in college is linked to positive outcomes including a sense of inclusion or belonging, which can facilitate retention and graduation. Research makes clear, however, that not all students find inclusion on campus. Drawing from in‐depth interviews with 80 first‐year students at a large public university, this study uses an intersectional lens to examine how inequality emerges in the extracurricular realm. I rely on a process‐based model that considers the ways students approach, experience, and manage involvement, producing unique constellations of extracurricular outlets. Social class impacts students’ capacities to find and join outlets that fit their interests. Moreover, inequality does not end when students enter these settings; rather, their experiences diverge at the intersections of gender and race. To find inclusion, female and racial/ethnic minority students often navigate a more elaborate process of becoming involved, and their sense of belonging is frequently limited or contingent. Meanwhile, white male students typically feel welcomed in extracurricular outlets and accrue a durable sense of belonging. Additional divergence by class, race, and gender appears as students manage the tensions produced by disparate experiences. Presented findings offer an intersectional understanding of extracurricular involvement and illuminate the value of a dynamic approach to intersectional research.\n", "Sociological Forum, EarlyView. "]