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Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life
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Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  2,317 ratings  ·  152 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, 343 pages
Published September 11th 2003 by University of California Press (first published August 12th 2003)
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4.13  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,317 ratings  ·  152 reviews

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May 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 30, 2013 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
Apr 04, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Sep 24, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
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 rated it it was amazing
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.
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
Feb 12, 2013 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
May 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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.
May 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Learned in class that an important part of sociology is broadening your perspective, and this book did that for sure. Helped me identify both privileges and limitations of the environment I grew up in, and also gave me a glimpse into childhoods that are different than mine.

Was thinking of giving it 4 stars because it's a white researcher writing in part about race and that makes me skeptical, but I decided on 5 after seeing that families' reactions and responses to the book (some positive/indif
Ebony Wilkins
Feb 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Leighanne Medina
Jun 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book was assigned to me as a pre-reading for my Masters of Arts in Teaching program. I ended up devouring this book. What a fascinating study. I even loved the additions that were added with the second edition, which dealt with the topic of where each of the subjects were 10 years later, and even how the families responded to the study itself.

A very thought-provoking book, and one I will keep and reference in the future. This book really challenged me to look outside the box when it comes
Feb 20, 2015 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.
Mar 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it it was amazing
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.
Aug 23, 2007 marked it as to-read
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.
Jul 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: parents
Recommended to Tannya by: Soc 330
This was such an insightful book from a parent's perspective. It discusses at great length the differences in parenting techniques and resources based on lifestyle, income, access to schools etc. etc. Although I had to read this as a text for a class, as a parent I found some really great insight.
Aug 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This book is an illuminating treatment of the effects of socio-economic status on various aspects of family life. It brought together a lot of issues about which I had thought before but which had never quite gelled for me, until now. Super interesting and also very readable: the tone is scholarly but the writing is accessible to a lay audience.
Unequal Childhoods was a really interesting book. I read it for my Sociology 3010 class. I recognized patterns in my own life from my childhood from this book, like why I don't like to look people in the eyes, for instance. I recommend reading this book.
Dec 02, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: recently-read
This book gives readers a great structure for making sense of how class informs parenting approaches. I would recommend this anyone in the Social Sciences but it is also written in a way that would make it accessible to anyone who is interested in kids.
Mar 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
Once you read this book, you won't be able to think about families in the same way. Granted there are many family types and lifestyles not presented in the book, but the book provides an important glimpse into the intersection of families and society.
Nicholas Harrison
Nov 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
An excellent sociological expose of the way families of various means raise children and the potential effects of differences between their childhoods. Only a few families are discussed, but they are discussed thoroughly and compared throughout.
Aug 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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.
Laura Papsun
Oct 18, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: adults
This book is a fascinating story of several children from a sociologist's point of view. It details the gaps in educational opportunities due to socio-economic status. It will change the way you think about why students fail in schools.
Aug 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Rich and readable description of the way social class shapes interaction with institutions. (And there's a lot of unreadable sociology out there.)
Made me think about the choices I make with my kids.
Jun 13, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
An example of outstanding sociological research and one of my favorites in recent years. Lareau shows the many ways in which social background impacts children's ability to navigate important social institutions, such as the educational system.
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