Choosing Higher Education: Educationally Ambitious Chicanos and the Path to Social Mobility


  • Patricia Gandara University of California-Davis



Mexican American education, higher education, social mobility


This is a study of high academic achievement found in the most unlikely places: among low-income Mexican Americans from homes with little formal education. It examines the backgrounds of 50 persons, male and female from one age cohort, who met most of the predictors for school failure or "dropping out." All came from families in which neither parent completed high school or held a job higher than skilled labor; the average father finished grade four and most were sons and daughters of farmworkers and other unskilled laborers. Most began school with Spanish as their primary language, yet all completed doctoral-level educations from the country's most prestigious institutions. This study investigates the forces that conspire to create such anomalies. Its aim is to suggest how such outcomes might be the product of design rather than accident.


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Author Biography

Patricia Gandara, University of California-Davis

Patricia Gandara is Associate Professor of Education at University of California, Davis. She teaches in both Educational Psychology and Educational Policy Studies. Formerly, Dr. Gandara was an Associate Social Scientist with the RAND Corp. and diretor of education research in the California Legislature. Her research interests include academic achievement of limited English proficient, and other minority students and school reform. She is the author of Over the Ivy Walls (SUNY, 1995), and is currently working on a book entitled The Dimension of Time and the Challenge of School Reform.




How to Cite

Gandara, P. (1994). Choosing Higher Education: Educationally Ambitious Chicanos and the Path to Social Mobility. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 2, 8.




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