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

4.11  ·  Rating Details ·  1,764 Ratings  ·  124 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
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Published November 14th 2011 by Tantor Media (first published August 12th 2003)
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May 03, 2015 Trevor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Years ago, when I started on Good Reads, I read Outliers by Gladwell and one of the things I found particularly interesting in that book was the discussion of research into the differences between how working class and middle class kids behaved. This book is the research that Gladwell based his chapter in Outliers on. I really like Gladwell’s writing and think it is wonderful that he did something to popularise this research – but if you can, you should read this as well. This isn’t an insanely ...more
Dec 10, 2008 Lynn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 24, 2011 Caroline rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: education-books
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
Sep 12, 2013 Christine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013-reads
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
Robert Owen
Aug 03, 2013 Robert Owen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: race
“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
Jan 18, 2009 Manzoid rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Ebony Wilkins
Feb 23, 2012 Ebony Wilkins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: research
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
Feb 27, 2013 Lauren rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
Jan 29, 2015 William rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An absolute must-read that really makes you question and reflect on your own upbringing and how you became the person you are. Simply excellent.
Sep 24, 2009 Carrie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 05, 2011 Alexis rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 01, 2016 Melinda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent and thought-provoking study on differences in both the parenting styles and assumptions as well as resources that different families bring to the task of child-rearing. Annette Lareau brings great empathy to this study which finds substantial differences between middle class and working class families that translates into advantage for the children who need it least. This book reminded me of "Paying for the Party," which made it clear how important family capacity and resources were ...more
Paul Froehlich
Feb 27, 2015 Paul Froehlich rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another 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 ...more
I really enjoyed this. It was engaging, well-written and well-performed research. I liked that Lareau also acknowledges potential biases and the limitations of the study. I am impressed by the methodology and her findings that economic class has more of an impact on on upbringing than race, also (clearly) the disparate impact of race in our country does mean that people of color are disproportionately affected by the impacts of class discrimination and bias in addition to the reality of racially ...more
Punita Rice
Aug 21, 2016 Punita Rice rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A sociological examination of how different kinds of cultural/SES influenced childhood experiences and opportunities impact student achievement and outcomes. Uses Bordieu's concept of cultural capital to look at how different groups of kids develop (or don't develop) advantageous skills that enable success in American academia (and beyond).

Laureau uses an anthropological approach to examining the day to day experiences of a handful of "types" of kids (race/SES/family type) and through these vig
Oct 11, 2015 Kathrina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Americans don't consider social class often enough in evaluating systemic bias in schooling as well as career opportunities. Parenting styles tend to adhere to social class practices, and middle class parenting styles tend to be rewarded in our capitalist economy. But not always, and not dependably. Everything matters, and unfortunately, best intentions are not enough. I knew this, but it's nice to hear again -- having a family is hard work, especially when you're your own best resource.
May 07, 2013 jessica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As I tear through this heartbreaking and brilliantly documented study I am amazed that we have so many conversations about public education without the lens of class. This book really speaks to every element of our nations educational failures and addresses every aspect of our identities as children, parents, teachers and/or community members. Leaving no stone unturned, Lareau builds an unassailable case that we are all responsible for the future of public education and each others children.
Jun 19, 2011 Marsha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was shocked to see the unnamed footprint of class differences permeating education to the detriment of all children. The deck is stacked against working class and poor people in ways we can't imagine. And the great value of this culture is fully lost at educational institutions. So that the contribution of people not in the middle class is squandered. Lareau uncovered all the inadvertent stuff INCLUDING a huge feeling of superiority on one side and alienation on the other.
Mar 14, 2015 Suzanne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2015
This book will make you question the way you were raised-- not to assess if your parents were "good" or "bad," but how their social class and education helped you succeed through your life. Lareau's fascinating research should be required reading for all educators so that they can be sensitive to how schools and other institutions function from a middle class perspective. This can prevent those with lower incomes from having the same chance for success as their peers.

As a middle class white gir
May 07, 2015 Karen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Unequal Childhoods changed my views on child development and the impact of race and class more than any other book I have read. Truthfully, I read this book several years ago but wanted to make sure that I had the opportunity to review it and sing its praises. While I have always been aware that gender, race, class and other social and economic factors create different conditions in childhood depending on these factors Unequal Childhoods gave me a solid framework and theoretical perspective that ...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.
Apr 17, 2016 Glnar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sociology
I read enjoyed this book, especially with the update on the children’s lives a decade later. While the American Dream is based on the belief that through hard work social and economic mobility is possible, Annette Lareau disagrees. Like Pierre Bourdieu and other sociologist, Lareau believe that social class impacts social mobility.

Despite some research limitations, this book provides detailed observations on the lives of twelve black, white and interracial families of middle, working and poor c
Jan 28, 2016 Vadim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
В основе книги -- социологическое исследование того, чем воспитание детей в семьях, принадлежащих к американскому среднему классу, отличается от воспитания в бедных семьях. Первые -- занимают время детей множеством активностей и вовлекают их во "взрослые" разговоры в семье и вокруг (школа, стоматолог), помогая им добиваться своего от окружающих. В бедных же семьях обнаруживается "более детское" детство: ребенок занимает себя сам (вообще-то полезное умение) и говорит преимущественно со сверстника ...more
Jun 08, 2014 Beth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
I have been meaning to read this book for years. Great book for teachers to read. I particularly enjoyed the additions in the second edition that discussed family reactions to being in the study.
Oct 05, 2015 Roxanne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So good! Should be required reading for all parents and institutions working with kids! I love the ten year update, though it was kind of depressing, especially for Harold McAllister who sounds like he could have gotten an athletic scholarship to college! It was sad that all the working class and poor families basically reproduced the class inequalities, which is expected but still. Reading about these hopeful little 10 year olds and then seeing their real futures was definitely a slap of realit ...more
Dec 19, 2012 Kris rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: work, hated-it
An interesting ethnology, but showcases a completely biased researcher who makes no bones about criticizing parental decisions.
Mar 29, 2010 Alex rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
some interesting findings but extremely repetitive, she beats you over the head with the message
Mar 09, 2016 Carrie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I listened to the audio book edition and I found this book dreadfully boring. My expectations were high as sociological topics like class, race, inequality, education and family dynamics are topics I love to read about, but this author's writing just never drew me in. The author gave us nothing memorable to remember the individuals by. This is nonfiction, and I guess the author had to give us objective information, but this was just too dry . . . and I feel like I'm choking and I just want it to ...more
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