Jewish Studies & Education graduate student Ilana Horwitz attended the 2019 annual Sociology of Education conference in Asiolmar, CA on February 22-24, 2019.
According to status attainment theory, one’s social origins are the biggest predictor of future educational attainment. Yet one’s religious denomination complicates this theory. For example, American Jews have higher rates of educational attainment than non-Jews even after controlling for socioeconomic status. One explanation could be that Jewish females have different educational aspirations than non-Jewish females. In this paper, we compare female adolescents from similar socioeconomic and racial backgrounds but who vary with respect to their Jewish upbringing. We draw on longitudinal interview data from the National Study of Youth and Religion, which we link with the National Student Clearinghouse. Our analysis shows significant differences in the way that Jewishly-affiliated and non-Jewish-affiliated female adolescents imagine their educational pathways and careers, and the way they organized their schooling experiences to align with those visions. The differences in where Jewish-affiliated and non-Jewish-affiliated female adolescents ultimately went to college are correlated with the aspirations they had in adolescence, and the steps they took to enact those aspirations. Ultimately, Jewish-affiliated females attend more selective colleges than non-Jewish-affiliated females of comparable structural positions. Thus, we argue that the high rates of educational attainment among Jews are partly explained through the process of horizontal stratification among females.