Lower SES PhD students experience interpersonal disconnection from others both inside and outside of academia

Hyun Joon Park, Peter M. Ruberton, Joshua M. Smyth, Geoffrey L. Cohen, Valerie Purdie-Greenaway, Jonathan E. Cook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Students from lower socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds can experience stigma in undergraduate educational settings but little research on this topic has been conducted at the PhD level. Lower-SES PhD students may feel lower levels of social integration as they experience incidents of interpersonal disconnection from others inside and outside of academia. Interpersonal disconnection may be a mechanism by which lower-SES leads to a lower sense of social integration. In this prospective study of first-year PhD students at three North American universities (N = 608), we assessed students’ perceived social integration and their interpersonal perceptions inside and outside of academia 2–8 times throughout their first year of graduate school. Relative to higher-SES students, lower-SES students perceived lower levels of social integration. They had difficulty making academic friends, felt dissimilar to their academic peers, and perceived a lack of understanding about their work in graduate school from non-academic families and friends. They also lost non-academic social ties. These interpersonal disconnections prospectively mediated the association between lower SES and lower levels of perceived social integration. Lower-SES PhD students are at risk of impaired interpersonal relationships. Institutional policies to promote social connections among PhD students may help lower-SES students integrate into academia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)79-107
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Social Issues
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'Lower SES PhD students experience interpersonal disconnection from others both inside and outside of academia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this