Cultural capital and perception of teacher-student relationships

Uncovering inequalities at schools in China

Image credit: jonathan.kang0205


A long tradition in stratification research argues students with higher cultural capital are likely to be treated by their teachers as possessing the “right culture,” which positively affects their academic performance. Nevertheless, the literature has paid little attention to the role of students' perception in this process. Using two waves of the China Educational Panel Survey, we investigate how students' cultural capital affects their own understanding of teacher-student interactions, including its gender difference. Fixed effects regressions show a substantially positive effect of cultural capital on the perceived frequency of teachers praising and calling on students to answer questions across subjects. Nonetheless, we also find the lack of cultural capital is not punished and that the cultural capital’s effect varies across its specific components and gender. These findings pave the way for elucidating the entire causal chain of intergenerational social inequality via cultural capital, teacher bias, students’ perception, and their educational outcomes.

British Journal of Sociology, Forthcoming