Social Exclusion and Conversion Factors

The case of Married International Graduate Students at One US University


  • Busra Soylemez-Karakoc Northwestern University
  • Xinhui Jiang Nanjing University
  • Maryam Hussain University of California Merced



capabilities approach, conversion factors, higher education, married international graduate students, social exclusion


Scholarship on international students shows that despite university policies designed to create a welcoming atmosphere, international students still face social challenges. This paper applies the capabilities approach to reveal mechanisms that facilitate or constrain the social inclusion of married international graduate students. For married international graduate students, the personal factors (their level of study and marital status) bring with structural factors (e.g., visa policies, healthcare policies, cultural and linguistic barriers), which in combination lead to social exclusion. With one university case study, including original survey and interview data, we unpack these intertwined processes and find that married graduate students’ social relation and network patterns significantly differ from single graduate students and undergraduate students. They are less likely to attend campus events, interact with their colleagues, and interact with friends from other countries. As such, we challenge the conventional wisdom that access to higher education alone leads to social inclusion.

Author Biographies

Busra Soylemez-Karakoc, Northwestern University

BUSRA SOYLEMEZ-KARAKOC, PhD, is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Northwestern University. Her major research interests lie in the area of comparative and international political economy, with a focus on globalization, populism, and corruption in developing countries. Email:

Xinhui Jiang, Nanjing University

XINHUI JIANG, PhD, is Assistant Professor at Nanjing University, China and her research examines gender and politics, local elections, representation, and interjurisdictional relations in China. Email:

Maryam Hussain, University of California Merced

MARYAM HUSSAIN, PhD, is a Health Psychology Fellow from in the Department of Psychological Sciences at the University of California Merced. Her research focuses on the importance of social support structures for psychological and physical health in ethnic minorities who endure adverse social environments. Email:


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How to Cite

Soylemez-Karakoc, B., Jiang, X., & Hussain, M. . (2023). Social Exclusion and Conversion Factors: The case of Married International Graduate Students at One US University. Journal of International Students, 14(1), 367–385.

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