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"Unequal Childhoods, Unequal Adulthoods: Small Moments and Large Consequences"

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  1. 1. “Unequal Childhoods, Unequal Adulthoods: Small Moments and Large Consequences” Annette Lareau Stanley I. Sheerr Professor University of Pennsylvania University of Virginia April 9, 2015
  2. 2. • “The American Dream that we were all raised on is a simple but powerful one - -- if you work hard and play by the rules, you should be given a chance to go as far as your God-given ability will take you.”
  3. 3. Sociological research Social origins: life paths Powerful findings, But focus is on outcomes=>less on processes Need attention to key moments Contingencies Things might have turned out differently
  4. 4. Social position => life outcomes PROCESS  Economic resources  Cultural knowledge  Ways work together: pattern of CONTINGENCY  *economic resources  *cultural knowledge  *contacts: key adults to help
  5. 5. Structural forces: • Wage set by minimum wage • Eligibility for food stamps and other poverty programs • Regulation (or lack there of) of occupational safety • Immigration policies, citizenship policies • Police services, fire fighter services • Economic investment in communities • Prison sentences • Health insurance policies • Deregulation of trucking industry
  6. 6. Immediate college enrollment rates among high school graduates, by parents’ education: 1992-2009 Source: National Science Foundation. “STEM Education Data and Trends: Who goes straight to college after high school graduation.” Accessed 29 July 2014.
  7. 7. Financial Assets by Education of Household Head, 2010 Survey of Consumer Finances Education of Household Head Checking and savings accounts Retirement accounts All households 92.5 50.4 No high school diploma 77.5 17.1 High school diploma 90.0 40.6 Some college 94.6 48.6 College degree 98.4 70.5 Source: Bricker, Jesse, Arthur B. Kennickell, Kevin B. Moore, and John Sabelhaus. “Changes in U.S. Family Finances from 2007 to 2010: Evidence from the Survey of Consumer Finances.” 2012. Federal Reserve Bulletin 98 (2): 1-80
  8. 8. Labor Market About ½ of jobs are filled via informal ties Nancy DiTomaso: 60% of her sample got one job via a tie Networks are segregated: limits job opportunities
  9. 9. Segregated networks are common • “It has long been known that people prefer to associate with others who are similar to themselves, which produces segregation in people’s social networks along a variety of core demographic statuses, including race/ethnicity, age, education, and income.” (DiPrete et al. 2011: 1236) Source: DiPrete, Thomas A., Andrew Gelman, Tyler McCormick, Julien Teitler, and Tian Zheng. 2011. “Segregation in Social Networks Based on Acquaintanceship and Trust.” American Journal of Sociology, 116(4): 1234-83. See also McPherson, Miller, Lynn Smith-Lovin, and James M. Cook. 2001. “Birds of a Feather: Homophily in Social Networks.” Annual Review of Sociology 27:. 415-444
  10. 10. Class and cultural logic of child rearing Study of 88 families: 10 year old children middle-class, working-class and poor White and African-American Middle class: Concerted cultivation Working-class and poor: Accomplishment of natural growth 2003
  11. 11. Two follow-up studies • # 1: At age 19/20 years: 2003/2004 • Interviews with all 12 youths, mothers and • fathers of 11 of 12 youths, and siblings • # 2: At age 29/30 years, 2014 • Information on 10 of 12 • Direct contact with 8 of 12 • 2 hour interviews with 5 focal adults
  12. 12. Relationship: • Holiday card with a bill tucked into it for many of the 12 youths • Gifts at weddings and births of babies • Gift cards at holidays for families with kids who are struggling economically • Some have terminated (see Lareau 2011), but rest greeted warmly • 2nd edition) but, if not, greeted warmly
  13. 13. Definition of social class Middle-class: one parent is employed in a position that either entails substantial managerial authority or which centrally draws upon highly complex, educationally certified (i.e. college level) skills. [BA+] Working-class: at least one parent is employed in a position with little or no managerial authority and which does not draw on highly complex, educationally certified skills. [usually high school grad or high school drop-out] Poor: parents not in the labor force in regular, continuous basis
  14. 14. Character of Institutions •Many unwritten rules •Eroding public services •*example: Decline in high school counselors •But working-class youth more dependent on these services than middle-class youth
  15. 15. Conceptual tools: cultural capital • culture as a resource which can yield profits • *provides access to scarce rewards • *is subject to monopolization • *under certain conditions, may be transmitted from one generation to the next • In Bourdieu’s work and others, knowledge is key • But not sufficiently developed in literature
  16. 16. Harold McAllister African-American, poor family When 10: Lived with mother, two sisters, brother, and assorted cousins in public housing Mother received AFDC Father was mechanic (never married); Harold visited regularly Large, rich extended family network: many family gatherings Loved basketball Vacation Bible study, but otherwise no organized activities; played with friends outside Good student, no disciplinary issues (didn’t do homework) lNot a source of information about possible jobs
  17. 17. Harold McAllister: Overview The Historical and Social Structural Context  Residence  School  Work  Incarceration  Child support Going forward: =>Ability to realize life goals Pathway had numerous branching points or contingencies. Other pathways possible, but depended on a combination of:  Economic factors  Cultural knowledge  Adults available to help
  18. 18. Harold McAllister 1. Federal housing policy: public housing torn down *Rental housing: substandard 2. Urban school district: few counselors * Cumbersome district transfer process 3. Workplaces: ambiguous criteria for promotion 4. Child support policies 5. Mass incarceration 6. Police * Network fell apart  Lost housing, moved around  Substandard housing moved in with Dad  School *college prep program *basketball team *attendance  Applied for numerous jobs, passed up: quit  Baby’s momma, DNA, pays child support  Running streets: arrests Police  Extended family shattered
  19. 19. Harold’s goals: Own a barbershop or a bar What would be involved?  2 years of barber school (need living expenses)  Pass test for state license  Pay taxes to city  Driver’s license or governmental ID  Bank account  Living expenses  He sees it as a 75% chance of happening.  Limited institutional footprint  No driver’s license  No bank account  No retirement account  No car BUT  Pays child support through the state  Had a DNA test to prove paternity Heavy marijuana user
  20. 20. Consistent with other studies
  21. 21. Karl Greeley White man, grew up in poor family Mother lost custody of kids due to a drug problem (when Karl was 4 yr, his sister was 18 mos, his brother was 1 month) Mom regained custody when he was 8 years old Father not around “Step-pop” around (never married) but separated when he was a teen; still around Lived in Section 8 (rent subsidized) apartment At 10 years old, Mom was happy, kids were pleased to be back together Walked dogs with neighbor, played outside, tested 156 IQ test
  22. 22. Karl Greeley 1. Foster care system 2. Federal housing policy: Section 8 housing 3. Urban school district: few counselors: complete dependence on the counselor 4. Hospital policies 5. Section 8, cumbersome 6. Work policies * Network small, grandfather difficult/controlling  Brother turned her in  Arrested, rehab children “sent to China”  Had Section 8 apt; fraud, found another one  School *middle school did well Small high school; only white student Transferred to Lower Richmond  Job in grocery store “through someone in the neighborhood” Fired: filed for unemployment, got job back  Never arrested: police harassment  Anxiety:
  23. 23. Karl’s goals: “work in computers” What would be involved?  Clarity about the goal  Community college  Four year college?  Internship, job in computer repair shop Networks:  Mother dead  Father dead  Step-pop disabled  Close with sister, nephew, and brother  Estranged from 2 uncles and grandpop  Limited institutional footprint  got driver’s license at 30  Bought a car  has bank account  Has health care  No retirement account  Feels stuck  Lives check to check  Networks: Construction, school district janitor, pizza shop marijuana user
  24. 24. If had some of same challenges with upper- middle-class mother  Tutors  Other school  College preparation  Lawyers  Networks of doctors when in hospital  Paid for barbershop school  Down payment on building  Help with license applications
  25. 25. Taking stock  Average students  No major behavior problems  Mothers strongly wanted educational success in high school  Mothers strongly support paid work in labor force  Had hopes and dreams  Live in a historical context of federal, state, and local policies which helped to set the parameters for their lives  As grew up, lives unfold  Economic constraints  Cultural knowledge  Adults/networks Worked together: Many branching points Many contingencies
  26. 26. Contributions of sociology  Live in an unequal society  Social origins cast a long shadow for many, but not all, children  But: not determined  Points when it might have been different  Harold: mechanic  Karl: computer repair person  Need to unpack the interaction of structural forces, historical moments, and biography  Need to highlight key moments  Some moments are more consequential than others  Cultural knowledge is often the lynchpin, but interwoven with other important factors