The Cultural Mismatch Model

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Institutions of higher education in the United States have increased emphasis on matriculating student bodies representing a wide range of social classes. Though the diversity of students has increased, the achievement gap between students of low socioeconomic status and their peers persists (Stephens, Fryberg, Markus, Johnson, and Covarrubias, 2012a). Stephens et al. (2012a) attribute a portion of this achievement gap to a cultural mismatch model, based on their finding that more than 80% of administrators from first-tier American colleges and universities classified the culture of their institutions as more independent than interdependent.
The cultural mismatch model is the idea that educational institutions in the United States
facilitate
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Having an interdependent self-construal contained aspects such as being more connected to and conforming to social context and occupying a role within said social context to foster cohesive harmony (Markus &
Kitayama, 1991). Having an independent self-construal is defined as being more separate from social context and promoting one’s own individual goals and unique attributes that cause one to stand out (Markus & Kitayama, 1991). Stephens et al.’s (2012a) research found that these cultural differences were paralleled with different social classes in the United States; individuals with lower socioeconomic status tended to be more interdependent while individuals with higher socioeconomic status tended to have a more independent self-construal. Stephens et al. (2012a)
CULTURAL MISMATCH IN THE ACHIEVEMENT GAP 4 also found that self-construal mediated the relationship between socioeconomic status and academic achievement in a sample of first-generation college
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Stephens et al. (2012a, 2012b) provide a nice experimental framework with supporting evidence for the cultural mismatch model. This quantitative research explores the cultural mismatch model with a much larger sample of survey data from low-income ethnic minorities, who are a part of the Gates Millennium Scholars dataset (Bill & Melinda Gates
Foundation) attending institutions of higher education, and their actual academic outcomes
(rather than task performance).
This research poses two hypotheses. The first is that having a largely salient interdependent self-construal mediates the relationship between socioeconomic status and academic achievement, and individuals with low socioeconomic status who have a largely interdependent self-construal will demonstrate less academic achievement than their peers with a more salient independent self-construal. The second hypothesis is that those students with a more salient interdependent self-construal who report improved independence while at college will demonstrate higher academic achievement than those with a salient interdependent self-construal who do not report improved independence while at
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