In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Sociology of Education

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Books
  • Datasets
  • US Supreme Court Cases
  • Journals
  • Cultural Capital and Schooling
  • Race and Ethnicity in Schools
  • Social Class, Status Attainment, and Schooling
  • Gender and Schooling
  • Social Organization of Schools
  • Explanations of the Black-White Test Score Gap
  • Assessments, Accountability, and Standards
  • School Choice

Education Sociology of Education
Sheneka M. Williams
  • LAST REVIEWED: 15 December 2011
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 December 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0065


The sociology of education refers to how individuals’ experiences shape the way they interact with schooling. More specifically, the sociology of education examines the ways in which individuals’ experiences affect their educational achievement and outcomes. Scholars and professionals who are interested in the interaction of education and society typically participate in this field. This field also includes education policy issues that arise from the social context of schools. The citations included in this bibliography guide users to works that primarily pertain to the structure of schooling. Certain citations have been included because of their significance to the discipline, in particular, and their influence on the overall field of education, in general.

General Overviews

The general works provided in this bibliography cover a range of topics in the sociology of education field. Arum, et al. 2011, a composite of articles relating to the contemporary study of the sociology of education, provides a foundational basis for many articles contained in this work. These readings extend from theoretical viewpoints, such as status attainment and social mobility, to more racialized analyses that relate to the achievement gap and desegregation. To further gain insights on the theoretical underpinnings and beginnings of the sociology of education, readers should consult Becker 1975, Bourdieu and Passeron 1974, Coleman 1966, and Schultz 1961. More contemporary works, such as Coleman 1988 and Putnam 1995, are included below. Alternative frameworks such as Durkheim 1956 and Bowles and Gintis 1976 also provide a basis for understanding the sociology of education. These works, published by economists as well as sociologists, provide a foundational basis for understanding the evolution of the sociology of education. Even today, the sociology of education field is influenced by economists and political scientists, as well as sociologists.

  • Arum, Richard, Irenee Beattie, and Karly Ford. 2011. The structure of schooling: Readings in the sociology of education. 2d ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge.

    A collection of readings that explore traditional and contemporary sociological issues in education, as well as the myriad theoretical perspectives on studying schools and their impact on social development.

  • Becker, Gary S. 1975. Human capital: A theoretical and empirical analysis, with special reference to education. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

    A seminal book that posits that education is a form of human capital that gives rise to better life opportunities.

  • Bourdieu, Pierre, and Jean-Claude Passeron. 1974. Cultural reproduction and social reproduction. Paper presented at the annual conference of the British Sociological Association, Univ. of Durham, 7–10 April 1970. In Knowledge, education and social change: Papers in the sociology of education. Edited by Richard Brown. Tavistock, UK: Tavistock.

    The authors’ main focus was the structural reproduction of disadvantages and inequalities that are caused by cultural reproduction. According to the authors, inequalities are recycled through the education system and other social institutions.

  • Bowles, Samuel, and Herbert Gintis. 1976. Schooling in capitalist America: Educational reform and the contradictions of economic life. New York: Basic Books.

    A groundbreaking work in the sociology of education, the Marxist economists argue that schools reproduce existing inequalities which are also represented in the American workforce.

  • Coleman, James S. 1966. Equality of educational opportunity. Washington, DC: US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Office of Education.

    Seminal report that fueled debates on school effects and student achievement. The report found that funding has little effect on student achievement, whereas student background and socioeconomic status are much more important in determining academic outcomes for students.

  • Coleman, James S. 1988. Social capital in the creation of human capital. American Journal of Sociology 94:S95–S120.

    Argues that the concept of social capital is an avenue to infuse social structure as a “resource for action.” The author looks at three forms of social capital in the creation of human capital.

  • Durkheim, Émile. 1956. Education and sociology. New York: Free Press.

    This seminal work merges education and sociology into one distinct discipline: sociology of education. For Durkheim, the key function of the education system was to socialize and integrate individuals into larger society.

  • Putnam, Robert D. 1995. Bowling alone: America’s declining social capital. Journal of Democracy 6.1: 65–78.

    DOI: 10.1353/jod.1995.0002

    Discusses the decline in civic engagement and political involvement in America. The author argues that such decline in social capital began in 1950.

  • Schultz, Theodore W. 1961. Investment in human capital. American Economic Review 51.1: 1–17.

    Introduces the theory of human capital and makes a direct link between an increase in investment in human capital and the overall increase in workers’ earnings.

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