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Paying for the Party

How College Maintains Inequality

In an era of skyrocketing tuition and concern over whether college is “worth it,” Paying for the Party is an indispensable contribution to the dialogue assessing the state of American higher education. A powerful exposé of unmet obligations and misplaced priorities, it explains in detail why so many leave college with so little to show for it.

Author Information

ArmstrongElizabeth A.: Elizabeth A. Armstrong is Associate Professor of Sociology and Organizational Studies at University of Michigan.HamiltonLaura T.: Laura T. Hamilton is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Merced.


Michèle Lamont, Harvard University:In this bold book, Armstrong and Hamilton capture the strikingly different pathways women undergraduates can take through public universities—'party,' 'professional,' or 'mobility'—and show how the dominant campus culture indulges the scions of the upper-middle class while limiting the prospect of the upwardly mobile. But the authors go far beyond a social reproduction story, to show the complex connections between parental resources, sociability, educational outcome, post-graduation lives, and the importance of the right brand of shoes. This book illuminates the realities of the American college experience today, when an adult life without crushing college debt is fast becoming the privilege of the happy few.
Audience: Professional and scholarly;