What Is Cultural Capital and How Does It Impact Our Economy?

by Kevin D. Gomez, GenFKD

In continuing our analysis of what goes into economic mobility, we run into cultural capital: the capital often left out of the economics because it’s assumed to be out of our control.

But, even though we all come from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, we can take comfort knowing there are a couple cultural attributes we can all adopt to make our climb up the economic ladder a bit easier.

So what is “cultural capital”?

Cultural capital can surely be linked to a swath of different characteristics, but for the sake of simplicity let’s define it like Pierre Bourdieu (the French guy that formalized the term) would: The collection of symbolic elements such as skills, tastes, posture, clothing, mannerisms, material belongings, credentials, etc. that one acquires through social classes, communities, and societies, in general.

As you can probably guess, cultural capital does not work in a vacuum. It has a strong influence on all the other types of capital.

For example, Ivy League graduates not only have high levels of social (and, for the sake of illustration, human) capital conducive to economic mobility, that can lead to higher paying jobs, but they also exhibit particular cultural features…

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