Cover of On the Edge of Commitment by Stephen L. Morgan
On the Edge of Commitment
Educational Attainment and Race in the United States
Stephen L. Morgan


264 pages.

Hardcover ISBN: 9780804744195


Excerpts and More

The importance of educational certification for labor market success has increased since the 1970s. But social sciences still cannot answer a fundamental question: Who goes to college and why? In On the Edge of Commitment, Stephen L. Morgan offers a new model of educational achievement to explain why some students are committed to preparation for college.

Morgan's model unites in one common framework the forward-looking cost-benefit assessments of students with social influence processes. The model is then used to explain puzzling race differences in patterns of high school achievement and subsequent rates of college enrollment. The book, using this model, makes a major theoretical statement on the process of educational achievement, which will help to launch a new generation of empirical work.

About the author

Stephen L. Morgan is Associate Professor of Sociology at Cornell University.

"[This book] shows very convincingly that inferring causality from the association between expectations and attainment is speculative at best. . . Without a doubt, this book sets a new research agenda for future generations of students of educational inequality. But it also has potential for students of human agency in other domains, such as mate selection, political participation, and prosocial behavior, to name but a few. Finally, Morgan's book aims to be relevant for policy makers, if they wish to reduce educational inequality. . . The implications of educational choice for educational stratification merit further study, and Morgan's model is an excellent point of departure."

—Meir Yaish, American Journal of Sociology

"On the Edge of Commitment is a provocative assessment of how young people decide how far to go in school. Morgan advances a novel and technically sophisticated synthesis of socialization and rational choice perspectives on educational attainment, and sets out a promising agenda for the next generation of educational stratification research."

—Robert D. Mare, University of California, Los Angeles

"An understanding of processes of educational attainment is of ever-increasing importance in contemporary societies. Morgan's book presents a new approach, integrating the best of previous work with highly original ideas of his own, and admirably demonstrating how sociological imagination can be combined with theoretical rigor."

—John Goldthorpe, Oxford University

"The discipline has waited many decades for a mechanism-rich model of educational attainment that incorporates agency and beliefs in credible ways and thereby goes beyond the foundational work of the "basic" and Wisconsin models. With Steve Morgan's new book, On the Edge of Commitment, the long wait is now over. His model will be embraced by many, eschewed by some, and studied by all."

—David B. Grusky, Stanford University

"A remarkable book that develops a new model for analyzing educational attainment. Fusing essential arguments from two important research traditions—rational choice theory and status socialization theory—Morgan outlines a model that addresses and overcomes the previous shortcomings of both traditions."

—Yossi Shavit, Tel Aviv University

"...this book is a valuable contribution to the sociology of education, in both an American and Canadian context, in its attempt to explain how educational beliefs, through improved systems of opportunity and institutional knowledge are essential for gaining access to post-secondary education"--Canadian Journal of Sociology Online

"Stephen Morgan's theoretically innovative and statistically sophisticated book provides a compelling model for addressing...crucial issues."

Contemporary Sociology