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Invisible Inequality: Social Class and Childrearing in Black Families and White Families

Annette Lareau
American Sociological Review
Vol. 67, No. 5 (Oct., 2002), pp. 747-776
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3088916
Page Count: 30
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Invisible Inequality: Social Class and Childrearing in Black Families and White Families
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Abstract

Although family life has an important impact on children's life chances, the mechanisms through which parents transmit advantages are imperfectly understood. An ethnographic data set of white children and black children approximately 10 years old shows the effects of social class on interactions inside the home. Middle-class parents engage in concerted cultivation by attempting to foster children's talents through organized leisure activities and extensive reasoning. Working-class and poor parents engage in the accomplishment of natural growth, providing the conditions under which children can grow but leaving leisure activities to children themselves. These parents also use directives rather than reasoning. Middle-class children, both white and black, gain an emerging sense of entitlement from their family life. Race had much less impact than social class. Also, differences in a cultural logic of childrearing gave parents and their children differential resources to draw on in their interactions with professionals and other adults outside the home. Middle-class children gained individually insignificant but cumulatively important advantages. Working-class and poor children did not display the same sense of entitlement or advantages. Some areas of family life appeared exempt from the effects of social class, however.

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