Park, H. J., Ruberton, P. M., Smyth, J. M., Cohen, G. L., Purdie‐Greenaway, V., & Cook, J. E. (2022). Lower SES PhD students experience interpersonal disconnection from others both inside and outside of academia. Journal of Social Issues.

Students from lower socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds can experiencestigma in undergraduate educational settings but little research on thistopic has been conducted at the PhD level. Lower‐SES PhD students may feellower levels of social integration as they experience incidents ofinterpersonal disconnection from others inside and outside of academia.Interpersonal disconnection may be a mechanism by which lower‐SES leads to alower sense of social integration. In this prospective study of first‐yearPhD students at three North American universities (N = 608), we assessedstudents’ perceived social integration and their interpersonal perceptionsinside and outside of academia 2–8 times throughout their first year ofgraduate school. Relative to higher‐SES students, lower‐SES studentsperceived lower levels of social integration. They had difficulty makingacademic friends, felt dissimilar to their academic peers, and perceived alack of understanding about their work in graduate school from non‐academicfamilies and friends. They also lost non‐academic social ties. Theseinterpersonal disconnections prospectively mediated the association betweenlower SES and lower levels of perceived social integration. Lower‐SES PhDstudents are at risk of impaired interpersonal relationships. Institutionalpolicies to promote social connections among PhD students may help lower‐SESstudents integrate into academia.