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Ain't No Makin' It: Aspirations and Attainment in a Low-Income Neighborhood

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  536 ratings  ·  34 reviews
This classic text addresses one of the most important issues in modern social theory and policy: how social inequality is reproduced from one generation to the next. With the original 1987 publication of Ain’t No Makin’ It Jay MacLeod brought us to the Clarendon Heights housing project where we met the “Brothers” and the “Hallway Hangers.” Their story of poverty, race, and ...more
Paperback, Third Edition, 552 pages
Published July 29th 2008 by Westview Press (first published July 14th 1987)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,016)
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Clif
So you think you are an individual, self-sufficient, a rational decision maker, responsible for where you are in life? It is a comfortable idea for the successful, to be able to take a nice warm shower in your own self-image, but it's hell for those at the bottom. Far from the conservative image of deadbeats who look for a free ride on the backs of hard-working people, this book shows how the poor share the idea of personal responsibility and beat themselves up mercilessly for their plight. From ...more
Jessica
Ain't No Makin' It: Aspirations & Attainment in a Low-Income Neighborhood was an assignment for my Foundations of Sociology and Culture class. It's an ethnographic study of two groups of teenage boys living in a housing project in New Hampshire in the 1980s and 90s.

It's interesting, if depressing, material. One group of boys, primarily white, is cynical about their futures and spends most of the time hanging out in a hallway, drinking and smoking weed and crack. The other group, primarily b
...more
Beth
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Marie
This is actually the author's thesis, repackaged and updated, largely consisting of interviews with disaffected youth in a particular inner-city housing project. What he finds are two groups in the project - the "Hallway Hangers", white, drug-using, school-skipping miscreants, and the "Brothers", black, hard-studying, 'good kids'. MacLeod is interested in their "leveled ambitions" - meaning that the way these boys temper their dreams to their reality. The most ambitious dream among the Hallway H ...more
Crystal Belle
Overall, I respect MacLeod's ethnographic study which followed a group of young white and black men in a housing project in New Hampshire in the 80s. He did a great job of applying Bourdieu's social reproduction theory to the everyday lives of the young men and even during his 8 year follow up after the initial study. Although I have serious issues with the fact that he did not reveal that he was doing research on the young men until a year into his study, I can understand why he might have beli ...more
Anna
I love reading studies that follow-up with their subjects years later. This book follows two groups of high school boys living in a project in the 1980’s and applies sociological theories to their views on life and possible life outcomes. The author follows up with each boy eight years later and discusses possible reasons for their life outcomes to that point. I’d say its predictable, but also not so much. Is life what you make of it or what society makes of you?
David
This is probably one of the best books I've ever read about sociological concepts. There are two groups of ideologically composed kids whose lives and thoughts are analyzed as they live and grow older. It seems like a lot at first glance but it's an easy read. Most of the text is composed of interviews of the different boys, and their views on the present and future. It got me emotionally at one point, and that doesn't happen very often. Powerful stuff!
Kelly
Really good book, especially for the sociologically-inclined but pretty depressing. Very eye-opening in terms of understanding the lower class and aspiration formation. Amazing the first half was his senior thesis--i suck.

Favorite quote (from Frankie, the leader of the Hallway Hangers): I grew up thinking I was a bad fucking kid....I look back there—there aren’t any bad kids—there’s a lotta kids that just had a f*cking tough life (255).
David
Interesting qualitative sociological study about kids growing up in the ghetto, and how their lack of "cultural capital" seriosuly limits their ability to succeed. This book challenges the "achievement ideology" (the idea that in america, ANYONE can be successful & wealthy if they just try hard enough). Interesting read.
Katie Samples


MacLeod's study demonstrates how social stratification in our capitalist society is reinforced through the expected norms and behaviors demanded by our society. Great read and would highly recommend to anyone interested in why social inequality continues to exist in the form that it does.
Mary
Every teacher, parent and lawmaker should read this book. The author does a fantastic, albeit bleak, job of presenting the world outlook of many living in poverty in a way that is both jarring and foreign to anyone who grew up in the middle or upper socioeconomic strata.
David Horney
I read this one for school. The actual sociology parts dealing with achievement ideology and social theory are kinda dry. The ethnography bits (most of the book) which follow these young men from teens to middle age is fascinating and utterly readable.
Jamie
Sep 28, 2008 Jamie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: social scientists
Great read. It is a sociological study dating back to the mid-80s. The author follows a group of young men who live in the same housing project through their adolescent years and into early adulthood. Fascinating.
Danielle Sullivan
Excellent, graphic sociological study of inner-city teens. This book helped me obtain a better understanding of the complexities of sub-cultures within the dominant culture. Great read & easy to follow.
Elyssa
I read this book for a class in college. It has great insight into the lives of poor kids in NY. Beware when reading this, it is chalk full of swear words and can be vulgar at times.
josh
Excellent book. Changed my outlook on a lot of things, a bit much with the overly technical and very boring sociological writing, but you can easily skim or skip those parts.
Pierre
Good "real-world" observation of Bourdieu's Social Reproduction Theory. Even more amazing that this was all researched and written by a college undergraduate at Harvard.
Betty
First exposure to qualitative sociology and method behind how to maintain identity as an academic observer yet also gain trust of subjects.
courtney
This book will challenge what you think you know about the way class operates in the US, as well as the ideal of the American dream.
Tony
May 03, 2007 Tony added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Teens and Up
Here, MacLeod brilliantly examines the lives of two groups of Boston teenagers through the lens of social reproduction.

Ken
Read this book as part of class readings for a class on immigration that I did in college.
Very moving story. A page turner.
Brenda
Oct 01, 2009 Brenda marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I'm actually reading the third edition, which includes the second follow up interviews of the subjects of the study.
Kristen Sera
Classic sociological study and great read. Great way to link sociological theory and ethnographic research.
David
The perfect antidote for those that believe effort is the sole determinant of success in life.
Katie
i read this in my intro to soc class in oh maybe 1999. still sto relevant and engaging it.
Amanda
A must-read for anyone who educates or is interested in social-justice issues.
Tj Thomas
Good ethnography looking into how the poor have no chances to succeed
Robin Rife
If you are studying the field of sociology this is a must read!
Beth
Heartbreaking, realistic view of teens of low SES.
Colin
Initially responsible for my interest in sociology.
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Ain't No Makin' It: Aspirations and Attainment in a Low-Income Neighborhood, Third Edition Ain't No makin' it 2nd Second Edition Ain't No Makin' It Pure Speculation Dear Editor

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