Identity (re)determination among upwardly-mobile Black women

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Alta Thornton Mauro (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Silvia Bettez

Abstract: Thousands of Black women in America are experiencing upward mobility, defined for the purpose of this study as moving into a higher socioeconomic status than one’s parents, guardians, or whoever raised them. As research indicates, these women may experience the strain of upward mobility more acutely than men or those of other races, given their identities as both women and racial minorities. The purpose of this qualitative research study was to explore Black women’s journeys of upward mobility, and to contribute to what we know about their experiences, specifically, any shifts in their perceptions of self, resulting from upward mobility. I explored the ways that Black women conceptualize changes in their socioeconomic status alongside potential changes in their identity following a change in socioeconomic status. The sample included ten self-identified African-American women who self-identify as upwardly-mobile. The primary methods of data collection were in-depth interviews, focus groups, limited email exchanges during member-checks, and field notes. Evidence from this study suggests that a part of upwardly-mobile Black women’s socialization in Black families and communities was recognizing that their identities had been overdetermined, or determined for them, by others in those communities. The women were expected to be hyper-performers, meeting and exceeding high expectations. Being a hyper-performer would position them for success in new spaces where a different value system prevailed. A critical part of maintaining their sense of self as they pivoted between these differing value systems was, in fact, recognizing that their identity had been overdetermined again, this time by people who did not share the communal, Black values under which they had been socialized. Redetermining their identity for themselves would mean reframing their expectations of themselves and others, and finding ways to attend to their mental, spiritual, and emotional needs in lieu of having ample culturally-sensitive models from which to draw inspiration.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2017
Black Identity, Black Women, Code-Switching, Identity, Identity Development, Upward Mobility
Women, Black $z United States $x Economic conditions
Women, Black $z United States $x Social conditions
Women, Black $x Race identity $z United States
Women, Black $z United States $x Psychology
Identity (Psychology) $z United States
Gender identity $z United States

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