Haitian American College Students’ Motivations for Pursuing Postsecondary Education: The Role of Parents’ Low-Wage Occupations

Ashley Brittany Metelus


Approximately 25% of US children are either immigrants or children of immigrants and are pursuing postsecondary education in large numbers. Haitian Americans are underrepresented within the literature. Nicholas, Stepick, and Dutton-Stepick (2008) looked at the subgroup of Haitian American students pursuing postsecondary education; they concluded that Haitian American students pursued postsecondary education because of cultural obligation. However, the term cultural obligation is wide-ranging. Instead of assuming cultural obligation, this research examines the specific aspect of low-wage parental occupation as an alternative explanation for Haitian American students’ pursuit of postsecondary education. The principal question for this research was the following: Do immigrant parents’ low-wage occupations serve as a motivator for Haitian American students to pursue postsecondary education? Data were collected through qualitative methods; participants were recruited through a convenient sampling strategy, and in-depth interviews were conducted with six Haitian American postsecondary students. Participants had to meet specific criteria: be Haitian American students, be currently attending a postsecondary institution, and have parents who held low wage immigrant occupations. The results showed that the majority of participants’ reasons for pursuing postsecondary education included self-efficacy, negative perceptions of parents’ low wage occupation, parental support, and family honor.


Postsecondary Education, Haitian-Americans, Motivations, Low-Income

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