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Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life, 2nd Edition with an Update a Decade Later [Paperback]

by Annette Lareau
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 20, 2011 0520271424 978-0520271425 Second Edition, With an Update a Decade Later
Class does make a difference in the lives and futures of American children. Drawing on in-depth observations of black and white middle-class, working-class, and poor families, Unequal Childhoods explores this fact, offering a picture of childhood today. Here are the frenetic families managing their children's hectic schedules of "leisure" activities; and here are families with plenty of time but little economic security. Lareau shows how middle-class parents, whether black or white, engage in a process of "concerted cultivation" designed to draw out children's talents and skills, while working-class and poor families rely on "the accomplishment of natural growth," in which a child's development unfolds spontaneously—as long as basic comfort, food, and shelter are provided. Each of these approaches to childrearing brings its own benefits and its own drawbacks. In identifying and analyzing differences between the two, Lareau demonstrates the power, and limits, of social class in shaping the lives of America's children.

The first edition of Unequal Childhoods was an instant classic, portraying in riveting detail the unexpected ways in which social class influences parenting in white and African American families. A decade later, Annette Lareau has revisited the same families and interviewed the original subjects to examine the impact of social class in the transition to adulthood.

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

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: 2.3 x 3.5 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,101 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must-Read for Parents and Educators October 6, 2011
By H. Wise
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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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fabulous update to the original gem 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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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unequal opportunities means inherited inequality 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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking and fascinating March 3, 2013
By P. Ryan
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The not so obvious reasons why America is not a land of opportunity for all. There is more than meets the eye to the raising of a successful human.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Purchased for school, read for fun. 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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Every parent should read. February 3, 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I grew up poor and on my own (mostly) to develop. My wife grew up more well-off with engaged parents. We both are successes and yet both instinctively wanted something else to do now that we are parents. For us, this book lets us have it both ways with an understanding, through great story examples, of the strengths and weaknesses present in both types of parenting.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars MUST READ September 1, 2012
This book was in amazing condition and I would most deffinity buy from this seller again! This book is a must read. It really puts childhood and child rearing into perspective.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Where is the critical analysis? March 14, 2014
By Dr. B
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good for beginners to understand sociology
This book was required for a Sociology of Education class I am taking, and I have to say it brings great questions and discussions to the class. Read more
Published 7 days ago by Carolina Cuello
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read!
This was a very interesting book. I learned a lot. It didn't read like a text book. I enjoyed it very much. Couldn't put it down.
Published 1 month ago by Arenda S Palmer
1.0 out of 5 stars Poor Quality
When I bought this it said New. Lots of pages were highlighted but was too late to return to seller since I needed this for class. If it's one that irks me is poor descriptions. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Michelle
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book.
Bought this for a class at Akron u, this is a phenomenal study and a great book. I read it for class and I am reading it again just because it interested me so much!
Published 2 months ago by Tara
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book with a great hypothesis
This was a very good read for people that are interested in exploring why the social situation is like it is. For those who simply want the answers, this is not for you.
Published 3 months ago by Mark Davenport
5.0 out of 5 stars Right on
This is a must read book. It is insightful and thoughtful. You may recognize yourself and some people around you in it.
Published 4 months ago by surfcitytwinmom
5.0 out of 5 stars A great, must read book!
The unequal childhoods is a phenomenal book. Annette Lareau's observation, analysis, critical thinking and comparisons between the middle class, working class, and lower class... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Woodley Lamousnery
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Interesting Study
This was a required read for a class I was taking. I was so intrigued by the case stories that I had to get the follow-up to see what the results were. Very, very good. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Rhonda
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful
This is a great book. Extremely insightful. Very pleased with my purchase. Different perspective of early childhood development. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Nice
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent purchase
This book is an excellent resource for individuals researching different family types. This book came quicker than I anticipated. I would purchase from this individual again.
Published 13 months ago by KBM
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