Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Sociology and Women's and Gender Studies

Document Type



In a society based on race, gender and class, Black working-class women are some of the most economically marginalized invisible people in American society. However, some of these women have managed to escape economic marginalization and rise to the highest academic levels. Black working-class women becoming members of the academy is a curious phenomenon, given that the traditional American faculty profile is populated largely by white males from middle class backgrounds. Being Black, ­­working-class and female brings together a complex process of identity construction, class-consciousness, and status negotiation. For one, they were not raised in families that have traditional economic, cultural, and social capital; however, their status as faculty members puts them in a highly privileged, intellectual societal group. Taken together, the emergence of these women into the academic profession goes against the notions of life chances.

Using an intersectional lens and grounded theory methods and approaches, this dissertation calls attention to Black working-class women’s entrance into academia, with particular attention paid to the process by which Black women from working-class backgrounds become members of the academy. If we consider the three traditional methods by which social scientists determine life chances, such as occupation, educational attainment, and income, then the question becomes, how did they make it? Drawing upon 20 in-depth interviews with Black women PhDs who self-identified the term “working-class” as their family of origin, this analysis fills a much needed gap in the literature on Black women and the paucity of class analysis across race and gender.



Committee Chair

Berkowitz, Dana



Available for download on Sunday, February 01, 2026