Much research has focused on how African Americans have been hindered from building generational wealth due to historic and contemporary acts of racism. This study seeks to address an understudied group, namely upper class Black Americans, and examine the steps they take to achieve social mobility. I conduct 14 in-depth interviews with African American alumni from an elite liberal arts college to investigate their financial and educational backgrounds, as well as their strategies for overcoming obstacles to wealth accumulation. The findings revealed that these individuals placed a strong emphasis on gaining social and cultural capital to build and preserve their wealth. Additionally, a majority of participants employed a conservative investment approach as a key strategy for achieving generational wealth. Overall, this study sheds light on the experiences of an understudied population and provides valuable insights into the strategies employed by successful African American individuals to overcome systematic barriers to wealth accumulation.

Type of Work

Thesis - Limited Access

Department or Program



Hamilton College


Bachelor of Arts

Date of Graduation


Faculty Advisor

Stephen Ellingson, Jaime Kucinskas

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.