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

4.08 of 5 stars 4.08  ·  rating details  ·  1,211 ratings  ·  99 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 480 pages
Published September 20th 2011 by University of California Press (first published August 12th 2003)
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This is a book that I keep returning to. I've decided to have my qualitative research methods class read it for Spring 2009. Of course I love that it deals with differences in family life as they relate to social class, but I am also amazed at its thoroughness, sensitivity, and scope. One of the book's key insights is that young people who grow up in upper middle class households may be better prepared to argue for their own way within the school systems, but they are also socialized into a trou ...more
I thoroughly enjoyed this book for the issues that I myself had observed through my student teaching. This book was assigned to me during graduate school while I was transitioning from one student teaching assignment to the other. My first student teaching assignment was on the Upper East Side in New York City. This school was in third place for the most PTA fundraising of any city in the city (the year before I came there, they raised a staggering $500,000 -and they were in third). Parents show ...more
Robert Owen
“Unequal Childhoods” was fascinating, and added significantly to my understanding of class and racial inequality in America. At its core, "Unequal Childhoods" is a made-for-lay-person summary of Annette Lareau’s 19__ ethnographic study in which she examines the lives of twelve fourth grade children of differing socioeconomic classes in order to explore the root causes of class inequality in American society. Contrary to the popular American conceit that one’s lot in life is the product of one’s ...more
The book uses extreme close-ups of several families over several months (kind of like "embedded journalists"), to draw the differences in upbringing between poor/working-class families versus middle-class families.

The book is divided into three parts. The first part shows the hectic schedule of organized activities that middle-class children engage in, with parents (especially moms) heavily involved, whereas poorer children's activities are much more disengaged from their parents. The second par
Starswirl the Bearded
This book should be required reading for all politicians, educators, parents and voters.

I stumbled across 'Unequal Childhoods', while reading 'Outliers', by Malcolm Gladwell: he uses examples from Lareau to support the central argument of his book (that unusually successful people have almost always benefited from unusually fortunate opportunities - quite often including an unusually high level of parental investment. While it may sound obvious, it goes against everything I was taught to believe
Everyone thinks they understand the concept of inequality, whether based on economic standing, race, education or environment. But do we really understand? When children are enrolled in the same public school system, (theoretically) have access to the same extra-curricular activities and the same social safety nets, why is there still such a discrepancy. Ms. Lareau explored these issues in her in-depth study of 12 third-graders from various racial and socio-economic backgrounds. Ms. Lareau and h ...more
Overall an intriguing book, and I believe that Lareau presents several thoughtful ideas in the course of her study, which focuses on the lives of middle and working- class children (ages 9 or 10)from various families. The writing style remained less personal than I would have preferred, and rarely did I feel that I "got to know" any of the children whose lives were discussed. I suppose, however, that this personalization had to be sacrificed in order to maintain a sense of professionalism. Somet ...more
I read this for a sociology class at school. I'm not sure you really want to get me started on this book so I'll try to condense and keep it brief... Basically Lareau's thinking is that working class and poor parents allow their children the "accomplishment of natural growth" which is largely because the parents have little or not involvement in their kids lives while middle class parents use "concerted cultivation" because they make every effort (to the point of ridiculous schedules) to develop ...more
Laura Hughes
Upfront, I am not an educator or sociology student. I don't remember why I requested this from the library--I must have read about it in the notes of a pop-social-science book, a Malcolm Gladwell or something. At first it looked like a sociology textbook, and I set it aside after trying to make headway in the jargony first chapter. But at some point it fell open to one of the case studies, and I was hooked. The book is all case studies and for some reason I cannot stop reading them. It's deeply ...more
Aug 23, 2007 Jill marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I have it on good, unbiased authority (Okay, I lie, it's the author's stepdaughter) that this is an excellent book. If the writing is half as good as the author's cooking, I am in. Anyway,'s reviews are great as well, and I presume those reviewers have not been swayed by discussion with the author's stepdaughter, or by good cooking, so I hope to read this soon.
Two immediate "good griefs"
1) I'm reading this thru Enki on an iPad, and it's the worst ebook format I've ever used. By far. Cannot highlight, search, turn pages easily, and the footnotes often kill the rest of the sentence. If you click on one, when you try to go back to where you had been, it only takes you back to the first page of the chapter.
2) Chapter one, footnote 1 in paragraph 2: black students are referred to as "Black" even though white non-Hispanic students are referred to as white
This was an incredibly interesting book - not only in its content, but also in the research method. The sheer number of participant observations and in depth interviews Lareau and her team conducted is outstanding. It also justifies the length of the book. I'm glad I was assigned the second edition because the final chapters that included the families' reactions about the book they were main characters in was fairly enlightening; people don't often like to see themselves from such a observationa ...more
"One evening -- the night before Harold is to leave for camp -- [Ms. McAllister] reaches her limit of tolerance with her twin sister [and cocaine addict], Jill. Her sister, she discovers, has taken packages of T-shirts that Hank bought for Harold and sold them... The density of the housing project also permits neighbors to hear the conflict and a small group gathers outside. The conflict escalates when Keith [common-law husband of Ms. McAllister] arrives homes. He and Jill have a loud (physical) ...more
Annette Lareau aptly illustrates the realities of children's lives across socio-economic and racial lines. She leaves analysis of the varied circumstances to the last chapter. Her approach allows the reader to develop his or her own interpretation before hearing one by the author/sociologist.

Lareau used the terms 'cultivated culturing' and 'natural growth' to indicate the generalized differences parents used to raise their children. She suggests cultivated culturing as a purposeful method parent
Ebony Wilkins
Annette Lareau follows twelve families through interviews and observations to highlight how class and race play into the rhythms of family life and the ‘logic of child rearing’ in their homes. Unequal Childhoods is an ethnography that centers on the naturalistic observations in the homes and daily activities of selected 10-year-old students in neighborhoods surrounding Philadelphia. Her research team conducted interviews of the students, their parents, their teachers, and included audio and vide ...more
Lareau's honest investigation of class-based child-rearing strategies does really compelling analytical work without playing into the tired tropes that tend to pervade thinking about parenting. There's no hysterical bemoaning of the overscheduled middle class kid, nor the mockery of ignorant poor parents who create a culture of poverty with their failure to parent like the middle class. The book takes its subjects points of view very seriously and delivers a smartly contextualized portrayal of h ...more
A must read for anyone who still believes the fallacy that our lived experiences ever equalize in the in-di-visible equation of a class-melting pot we call that good old American Dream. Stir in a little bit of 'we are only equal in the height of chains' and you'll get her scope. Not a perfect ethnography (certainly the methodology, selected highlights, etc. can be questioned), but still a good example of the applicable potential and larger scope a well-wrought qualitative analysis can yield and ...more
Makes some good points, but the author's tripping all over herself trying to avoid siding with the middle class was hard to take. She says several times that physical punishment used to be the norm--as though this makes it okay? I mean she shows plenty of concern that one of the children can barely read even though illiteracy "would have been virtually universal in certain time periods" (as she says of the practice of hitting children). I mean I appreciate her point that most books of this type ...more
Sarah Beck
I enjoyed this book once I got past the higher education formatting. I was able to follow her train of thought but having notes for the appendices rather than at the bottom of the page was a problem just logistically trying to keep track of the variety of pages I was on. An interesting look into class and implications that has for later life. I enjoyed that she did not proclaim one class as having a superior method overall. I would be interested if this study added other research about any more ...more
jessica wilson
I have to say that this book was surprising to me in the observations unspoken. Not an easy read as the vocabulary and style is quite academic (which for me borders on boring but that is me). As a student of human development or should I write Human Development I was surprised to find no reference to Urie Bronfenbrenner's ecological model of development which is a keystone to community that then includes class, race, and family life. I did however learn of Pierre Bourdieu, father of the class de ...more
This book is an extremely fascinating ethnography looking into the lives of 4th graders from middle class, working class and poor families. The insights in the book find familial differences based on scheduling, language, family relationships and the overall day to day of the families studied. I will say the book does become redundant after part II because the findings among the different races are extremely similar no matter their race or geography. The follow up of the study also lacks to prov ...more
EVERYONE who wants to work in education, sociology, or a related field should read this. Heck, anyone who cares about social justice in general should read this book. If (and when) I become a professor, this will be at the top of my required reading list. I can't say enough good things about this book... stop reading this review and start reading Unequal Childhoods.
A qualitative study of 12 families with 9-10 year olds on the effects economic class has on parenting philosophy and then how those parenting philosophies affect student success when dealing with institutions like schools. Her conclusion - it's economic class, specifically being middle class, that changes parenting techniques the most - not race or gender. A recommended read for anyone working with kids, especially in a school setting. Also recommended for parents - see the pluses and minuses of ...more
Bistra Ivanova
Тази я четох (и зарязах) по случай курса по социология в Принстън @ Coursera. Имаше интересни неща за децата, образованието и развитието при различните класи и раси. Особено ми допадна за разликата между средната класа, която планира заниманията на децата от най-ранна възраст (вторник и петък - тенис, сряда и неделя - английски) и оттам те свикват на график, и работническата, която оставя децата да растат сами. Досега инстинктивно бях вярвала повече в свободата, но сега си дадох сметка, че в пос ...more
Ian Danskin
Incredibly well-researched and well-supported. Most books I've read on poverty have felt very entry-level, broad but not deep. This was intermediate study - the kind of book you read with two bookmarks, because endnotes! Lareau is still an intelligent and eloquent writer, so the going never feels like a slog. The final chapter is maybe the best exploration I've read into what, systemically, makes the poor stay poor in the modern age, and how it got to be that way.

See also: Orwell's Down and Out
Disappointing. While the author's research is somewhat solid, it seems she is trying to promote it as having external validity (i.e. generalizing it to society), something that qualitative research like Lareau's CANNOT do. That's not the purpose. The book needs to be re-worked and re-marketed in that framework. I read a dozen reviews and they all claimed that the book had tremendous implications for society, which again, by nature of the study, it cannot. If you're looking for in in-depth accoun ...more
This book brought up many aspects of how class shapes the development of children. In the United States, the author argues that we believe life chances rest on the ambitions, hard work, talent, and aspirations of individuals. However, that belief does not take into account that social standing and location play a major role in shaping a child's life experiences and thus their life outcome.
I liked the book, and I think the author was generally arguing that it is important to take responsibility
I learned a lot about the different social classes and how different our family lives are. It's one thing to understand the vast differences in income and another in looking at their daily lives and routines.
My childhood resembled that of Wendy Driver. We did not argue with our parents and money was definitely something we were aware of.
I liked that this book made me think about the struggles of other parents and understand their motivations for pushing their children so hard. Looking at these
This should be mandatory reading for anyone working in education, social services, mental health or the medical field. Or by anyone who ever enters those arenas. So basically, everybody should read this book.
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