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Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life, 2nd Edition with an Update a Decade Later Second Edition, With an Update a Decade Later Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-0520271425
ISBN-10: 0520271424
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Editorial Reviews


"A fascinating study." ---Malcolm Gladwell --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

From the Inside Flap

“So where does something like practical intelligence come from?...Perhaps the best explanation we have of this process comes from the sociologist Annette Lareau, who...conducted a fascinating study of a group of third graders. You might expect that if you spent such an extended period in twelve different households, what you would gather is twelve different ideas about how to raise children...What Lareau found, however, is something much different.” —Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers: The Story of Success

"Less than one in five Americans think 'race, gender, religion or social class are very important for getting ahead in life,' Annette Lareau tells us in her carefully researched and clearly written new book. But as she brilliantly shows, everything from looking authority figures in the eye when you shake their hands to spending long periods in a shared space and squabbling with siblings is related to social class. This is one of the most penetrating works I have read on a topic that only grows in importance as the class gap in America widens."—Arlie Russell Hochschild, author of The Time Bind and The Commercialization of Intimate Life

"This is a great book, not only because of its powerful portrayal of class inequalities in the United States and its insightful analysis of the processes through which inequality is reproduced, but also because of its frank engagement with methodological and analytic dilemmas usually glossed over in academic texts. Hardly any other studies have the rich, intensive ethnographic focus on family of Unequal Childhoods." —Diane Reay, American Journal of Sociology

"Lareau does sociology and lay readers alike an important service in her engaging book, Unequal Childhoods, by showing us exactly what kinds of knowledge, upbringing, skills, and bureaucratic savvy are involved in this idea, and how powerfully inequality in this realm perpetuates economic inequality. Through textured and intimate observation, Lareau takes us into separate worlds of pampered but overextended, middle-class families and materially stressed, but relatively relaxed, working-class and poor families to show how inequality is passed on across generations." —Katherine Newman, Contexts

"Sociology at its best. In this major study, Lareau provides the tools to make sense of the frenzied middle-class obsession with their offspring's extracurricular activities; the similarities between black and white professionals; and the paths on which poor and working class kids are put by their circumstances. This book will help generations of students understand that organized soccer and pick-up basketball have everything to do with the inequality of life chances."—Michele Lamont, author of The Dignity of Working Men: Morality and the Boundaries of Race, Class, and Immigration

"Drawing upon remarkably detailed case studies of parents and children going about their daily lives, Lareau argues that middle-class and working-class families operate with different logics of childrearing, which both reflect and contribute to the transmission of inequality. An important and provocative book."—Barrie Thorne, author of Gender Play: Girls and Boys in School

"With rich storytelling and insightful detail, Lareau takes us inside the family lives of poor, middle-class, and affluent Americans and reminds us that class matters. Unequal Childhoods thoughtfully demonstrates that class differences in cultural resources, played out in the daily routines of parenting, can have a powerful impact on children's chances for climbing the class ladder and achieving the American dream. This provocative and often disturbing book will shape debates on the U.S. class system for decades to come."—Sharon Hays, author of Flat Broke with Children

"Drawing on intimate knowledge of kids and families studied at school and at home, Lareau examines the social changes that have turned childhood into an extended production process for many middle-class American families. Her depiction of this new world of childhood--and her comparison of the middle-class ideal of systematic cultivation to the more naturalistic approach to child development to which many working-class parents still adhere--maps a critically important dimension of American family life and raises challenging questions for parents and policy makers."—Paul DiMaggio, Professor of Sociology, Princeton University

"Annette Lareau has written another classic. Her deep insights about the social stratification of family life and childrearing have profound implications for understanding inequality -- and for understanding the daily struggles of everyone attempting to raise children in America. Lareau's findings have great force because they are thoroughly grounded in compelling ethnographic evidence."—Adam Gamoran, Professor of Sociology and Educational Policy Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

"With the poignant details of daily life assembled in a rigorous comparative design, Annette Lareau has produced a highly ambitious ethnographic study that reveals how social class makes a difference in children's lives. Unequal Childhoods will be read alongside Sewell and Hauser, Melvin Kohn, and Bourdieu. It is an important step forward in the study of social stratification and family life, and a valuable exemplar for comparative ethnographic work."—Mitchell Duneier, author of Sidewalk and Slim's Table

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; Second Edition, With an Update a Decade Later edition (September 20, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520271424
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520271425
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #41,358 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By H. Wise on October 6, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I've assigned Lareau's original work for several years in a lower-level Race, Class and Gender Sociology course taught for elementary education majors. This is THE book students remember from the course and the one that provides them with the perspective they need to deal with educational issues connected to social class. I highly recommend this second edition as it addresses the ultimate question of what happened to the children and how their life chances varied according to social standing. Excellent read for anyone interested in parental involvement, student achievement, and the mechanisms which we use to navigate the social institution of education with varying degrees of success.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By C. Slocum on May 7, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Annette Lareau updates her 2006 book with extra chapters that follow her subjects into adulthood and describe methodological strengths and issues. The core of the book is the same, and retains its finding. The last few chapters explore late teens for the students. The findings that concerted cultivation exists in the middle class continue through the college application process, with middle class teens receiving help from family and working class teens trying to get help from schools and other institutions. Chapter 14 is a rare and very honest glimpse into how research subjects feel about the research being done about them. Long story short: most do not like it. Dr. Lareau includes quotes and letters describing this, which should serve as a point-to think for student ethnographers. Chapter 15 mathematically models class and time use data from the PSID.

Often second edition of books are different from the first edition in very minor ways. That is not true of this edition. I highly recommend it.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Paul Froehlich on July 29, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Most Americans see individual effort as the key to success, with fewer than one in five seeing class or race as very important in getting ahead in life. The reality is that social class is a more important determinant of a person's success in life than it used to be due to two powerful trends: Growing economic inequality that has created a wider gulf between rich and poor, and less mobility between classes. The fact is the USA has both less social mobility and wider economic inequality than any of the other rich democracies in Canada, Australia, Japan and western Europe.

With more sluggish mobility than in the past, class has become more hereditary than it once was. The gap in spending per child is growing between rich and poor Americans, from 5 to 1 in 1972 to 9 to 1 in 2007. Just 17 percent of kids raised in the bottom fifth of the income distribution will make it to the top two-fifths by age 40.

It's no wonder then that class differences are so powerful in shaping a child's life experience, more important in child raising than racial differences, according to Annette Lareau, a sociology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, who won awards for the first edition of this book in 2002.

Lareau's research reveals the basic class differences in approach to raising children. Middle-class parents have their children in organized activities and engage in a process of "concerted cultivation." By contrast, working-class and poor parents don't engage their children in concerted cultivation, instead allowing development through "natural growth."

Poor parents face economic challenges just putting food on the table and getting medical care. They lack the resources and energy to put their kids in as many organized activities.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Mc Madditron on March 6, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book was required for my sociology class and I ended up reading the whole thing before it was assigned. Very neat to see how different the childhood experiences are. Some were really sad. I'm nowhere near wanting to raise children but I still found this book thoroughly interesting. Probably a good read for any parent.
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22 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Dr. B on March 14, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am just so fundamentally troubled by the repeated positive reviews of this book. While I agree, this was a "fun" book to read, very readable that is, as a practicing sociologist I find this book to be hugely problematic. There are sooooo many criticisms I have of this book - where to start? Suffice it to say that the very rich data on which this book is based is it's high point. The low point is the vast absence of analysis. It is the critical analysis of data that makes sociology. If you're going to write about race, gender, class, etc. then do a critical analysis of it. Not knowing better, students would be left to believe after having read this book that only poor people beat their kids (For real? Can we not show some statistics of domestic abuse? Where's the analysis?), that people of color live in the middle class at rates equal to white people and go to college at rates equal to white students (context please??? A tiny little chart demonstrating the vast disparities please?) and for those who don't, we're led to believe that, well, they live in projects and then go to prison and there's no particular reason for that (Where's the analysis? Does the author REALLY want to leave it at that?). Moreover, there is no attempt at contextualizing the lives of poor people as active agents and/or survivors who DO advocate for themselves - we are left to believe they are dupes and passive victims with no voice (Seriously? Where's the analysis of poor people's movements?). I am furthermore, rebuffed that somehow on the basis of this that the author is now in 2014, amazingly, the president of the ASA. Wow. Just wow. This isn't actually sociology. The little tid bit references to "Life Chances" and Bourdieu are wholly inadequate and do not make this study sociological. It's as if this book is just raw data waiting to be analyzed.
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