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Schmoozing in Elementary School: The Importance of Social Capital to First Graders

Kendralin J. Freeman and Dennis J. Condron
Sociological Perspectives
Vol. 54, No. 4 (Fall 2011), pp. 521-546
Published by: Sage Publications, Inc.
DOI: 10.1525/sop.2011.54.4.521
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/sop.2011.54.4.521
Page Count: 26
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Schmoozing in Elementary School: The Importance of Social Capital to First Graders
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Abstract

ABSTRACT Sociologists have investigated the importance of social capital for many outcomes, but the influence of various types of social capital—particularly intergenerational closure—on inequality in students' academic skills remains unclear. In this study, the authors draw on and extend theoretical perspectives rooted in Coleman and Bourdieu to assess the impact of both strong and weak ties on children's learning. Analyzing data on first graders from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study–Kindergarten Cohort (ECLS-K), the authors show that multiple types of social capital are distributed unequally by social class, and that these disparities in social capital partially mediate the relationship between social class and gains in math skills. Intergenerational closure, however, does not promote learning net of other factors. Supporting primarily Bourdieu's perspective on social capital, the authors conclude that weak ties in particular are critical in explaining class inequality in learning, even during the early years of a child's education.

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