Cohorts, ‘Siblings,’ and Mentors: Organizational Structures and the Creation of Social Capital

Cox, Amanda Barrett. 2017. Sociology of Education 90(1):47-63.

* To be reprinted in The Structure of Schooling: Readings in the Sociology of Education (4th edition), edited by R. Arum, I.R. Beattie, & K. Ford

* Received 2017 James D. Thompson Graduate Student Paper Award (Honorable Mention), American Sociological Association section on Organizations, Occupations and Work

* Received 2017 David Lee Stevenson Award for Outstanding Graduate Student Paper (Honorable Mention), American Sociological Association section on Sociology of Education

How can an organization help participants increase their social capital? Using data from an ethnographic study of Launch, an organization that prepares low-income students of color to attend elite boarding schools, I analyze how the organization’s structures not only generate social ties among students but also stratify those ties horizontally and vertically, thereby connecting students to a set of social contacts who occupy a range of hierarchical positions and who are able to provide access to resources that are beneficial in different contexts and at different times. I argue that organizational structures can function as tools for building—and embedding participants within—social networks with advantageous structural characteristics.