Class Reproduction by Four Year Olds
While scholars know that young children are active if inadvertent participants in the reproduction of race and gender inequality, little has been said about how young children engage in class reproduction. Through observing in a preschool classroom, I show that preschoolers are already class actors as they perform class through their linguistic styles. Upper-middle-class children speak, interrupt, ask for help, and argue more often than working-class children. Upper-middle-class children’s classed linguistic style effectively silences working-class students, gives them less power, and allows them fewer opportunities to develop their language skills. The children’s linguistic class performances have immediate consequences and potential future implications for class reproduction.
* Winner of the American Sociological Association Inequality, Poverty, and Mobility Graduate Student Paper Award
* Two-time winner of the University of Michigan Mark Chesler Paper Award
* Spotlighted in the Fall 2011 issue of Contexts
* Featured in NPR, The Boston Globe, The Vancouver Sun, The Financial Times, and the LSE American Politics and Policy Blog
Class Origins and Heterogeneity in College Graduates’ Parenting Beliefs
The Sociological Quarterly
Previous studies have focused on how parents’ class destinations relate to their parenting beliefs. Few studies, however, have examined the variation within parenting beliefs for those who share a class destination. Drawing upon interviews with 56 college graduates – 28 parents with working-class origins and their 28 spouses with middle-class origins – I show that heterogeneity in parenting beliefs sometimes cohered around class origin. Specifically, ideas of children’s education and time use related to class origin, though ideas of how to talk with children did not. I discuss the implications of these findings for how we study parenting and intergenerational inequality.
Explanations of How Love Crosses Class Lines: Cultural Complements and the Case of Cross-Class Marriages
Sociologists know little about how actors explain their attraction to a partner who grew up in a different social class or why their accounts are likely. This is problematic as one form of social class heterophily is relatively common – heterophily by class origin. Drawing upon data from interviews with college-educated respondents in heterophilous marriages by class origin (n = 60) as well as interviews with college-educated respondents in homophilous marriages by class origin (n = 20), this article shows that respondents in heterophilous and homophilous marriages say that they appreciate their spouse for different reasons. Whereas actors in homophilous relationships by class origin explain their appreciation for their spouse in terms of cultural similarities, respondents in heterophilous marriages by class origin explain their appreciation of their spouse in terms of “cultural complements” – the obverse of the dispositions they dislike in themselves. The article theorizes that accounts of cultural complements are enabled by the social organization of culture by class.
* Winner of the Midwest Sociological Society Graduate Student Paper Award (First Place, 2013)
* Winner of the University of Michigan Department of Sociology Katherine Luke Paper Award
* Top Five in the ASA Family Section Graduate Student Paper Competition (2013)
Benign Inequality: Frames of Poverty and Social Class Inequality in Children's Movies
The Journal of Poverty
Media targeted at adults tends to portray poverty and social class inequality as the result of individual merit and moral worth. Research, however, has not uncovered how poverty and social class inequality are portrayed in media targeted at children. Drawing on a content analysis of the highest grossing G-rated movies, this study examines the proportional representation of characters in each class as well as frames of class conditions, characters, and the opportunity structure. These frames suggest that children’s media legitimates poverty and social class inequality in a new way – by presenting them as benign.
*Featured in The Guardian, NPR, New York Magazine, Deseret News, Daily Mail, and The Telegraph
How Culture Facilitates Mobility
American Journal of Cultural Sociology
Theories of culture and class are decidedly one sided: we have many theories of how culture facilitates class reproduction but few theories of how culture facilitates class mobility. Such an unbalance is deeply problematic. Not only are key stratification processes ignored, but the theoretical imbalance leads all cultural differences between the classes to be interpreted as evidence of class reproduction even when this cannot be true. In a theoretical article, I develop concepts that can help scholars consider how culture is used for social mobility. The article can be read here.
The Equalizing Power of a College Degree for First-Generation College Students: Disparities Across Institutions, Majors, and Achievement Levels
Research in Higher Education
With Anna Manzoni
Researchers have paid increasing attention to issues of access and retention among first-generation college students but have focused less on their post-college outcomes. We extend this literature by investigating if there is a generational wage gap, that is, a gap between first- and continuing-generation students’ wages. We also ask how the generational wage gap varies across institutions, majors, and achievement levels, and what accounts for it. Using data from the Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Study, we show that, ten years after completing college, there is a substantial generational wage gap. However, for women, the generational wage gap fades when controlling for individual characteristics such as race and motherhood status. For men, the generational wage gap does not disappear when controlling for individual characteristics, but does disappear when controlling for labor market characteristics. In addition, we find that the generational wage gap is more a product of how students are distributed into industries, jobs, and work locations than how they are distributed into educational institutions, majors, and achievement levels.
Class, Culture, and Downward Mobility
The study of class and culture is predominately the study of class reproduction, not also downward mobility. This article maintains that sociologists do not see the cultural mechanisms associated with downward mobility because we share three collective blinders. First, we under-emphasize the ways that middle-class cultural practices are mismatched with the practices that institutions reward. Second, we over-emphasize the utility of middle-class cultural practices for their class reproduction. We do this as we focus on youths’ cultural practices within institutions, ignoring that not all youth enter institutions associated with class reproduction. Third, we assume that the dominant cultural practices of each class keeps youth in their original social class. In doing so, we do not consider that middle-class actors avoid downward mobility by adopting the dominant practices of the working-class. Using interview data from the National Study of Youth and Religion, this article shows how removing these blinders can help us understand how culture relates to downward mobility. It does so by revisiting Lareau’s theory of how entitlement and constraint relate to class reproduction.
Presenting Their Gendered Selves? How Women and Men Describe Who They Are, What They Have Done, and Why They Want the Job in Their Written Applications
With Jane Rochmes, Felicia Arriaga, Carlos Tavares, and Emi Weed
Occupational segregation is due, at least in part, to differences in what jobs women and men apply to and how they are evaluated. However, we know little about one mechanism that may relate to employers’ evaluations and, therefore, to occupational segregation: how applicants present themselves to employers. Theories of gender presentation offer competing predictions of how applicants present themselves to employers and empirical studies have not fully examined the issue. We address this theoretical ambiguity and empirical gap by drawing upon 1124 randomly selected applications that U.S. women and men used to apply for the same high-status job. After conducting a content analysis, we found that women and men present themselves similarly in terms of why they want the job and what experiences they have, but differently in terms of who they are and what information they divulge. We conclude that different aspects of applications correspond to different theories of gender presentation, but that most of the evidence supports a perspective of minimal gender differences. The present study implies that one way to combat occupational segregation that occurs due to employers’ essentialist beliefs is to point them to how women and men actually present themselves in their applications.
Writing in Race: Evidence Against Employers' Assumptions about Race and Soft Skill
With Jane Rochmes, Felicia Arriaga, Carlos Tavares, and Emi Weed
Hiring managers and segments of the American public believe that white, black, and Hispanic job-seekers present distinct soft skills to employers. Sociologists have not tested this belief and provide competing theories about whether it is likely to be true. Structural theories maintain that different resources and networks inhibit racial groups from displaying similar non-technical skills and experiences, while cultural approaches posit that all groups can access and display a variety of soft skills. Based on a content analysis of 1,124 applications that white, black, and Hispanic job-seekers used to apply for the same job, we find little evidence supporting the belief in racial distinctions in soft skills. Instead, white, black, and Hispanic applicants in our sample presented the same top reasons for applying, the same top personal characteristics, the same top college activities, and were equally likely to follow professional norms. We discuss the generalizability of our findings and their implications for theories of access to these skills.