Switching Ponds, Creating Prospects: Transitions to Higher Education and Adulthood Socioeconomic Standing

Noli Brazil, Yale University
Matthew Andersson, Yale University

Emerging adulthood, a pivotal segment of the life course for shaping adulthood mental well-being, often involves transitioning to college. While ample research has examined well-being outcomes of the college transition according to social, personal and institutional factors, changes in peer academic ability remain overlooked. We examine the college transition in terms of change in peer ability across secondary and postsecondary academic environments within a nationally representative sample of adolescents. Based on lagged diagonal mobility models, we find that depressive symptoms increase among those students who experience a decrease in mean peer ability levels from high school to college, which is consistent with an unmet expectations view of student well-being rather than a social comparison perspective. Meanwhile, self-esteem shows no net transition effects. According to mobility weights, both forms of mental well-being mostly are linked to destination (college) peer ability rather than originating (high school) peer ability.

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Presented in Session 32: Social Contexts of Education