Cultural repertoires and status safeguarding among rural middle-class parents



This study investigated how middle-class rural parents engaged in status safeguarding in an economically struggling rural community and how the parenting views and practices of rural return migrants impacted the community.


Rural communities seek college-educated returners to offset outmigration. We know little about how returners impact the community, especially if they return to raise children.


This study analyzed interview data from 15 white, college-educated parents between the ages of 25 and 38 who returned to their rural hometown to raise their children.


All returners emphasized their children’s choice regarding their future educational and occupational paths, and they equally valued college and skilled trades. In other ways, rural return migrants drew on distinct cultural repertoires in their childrearing strategies. Parents who had not lived in cities before returning relied on a localized cultural repertoire to engage in status safeguarding through reputation management as they monitored cross-class interactions and emphasized fitting in. In contrast, rural return migrants who had lived in cities drew on a cosmopolitan cultural repertoire that emphasized exposure to cultural amenities and engaged in cultural practices that they saw as distinguishing their children from the local community.


Although the return of college-educated residents is often celebrated, this study suggests that college-educated migrants may ultimately maintain inequalities within the community through social class or cultural exclusion based on their cultural repertoires.

withyou android app