Social Class: How Does It Work?

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Class differences permeate the neighborhoods, classrooms, and workplaces where we lead our daily lives. But little is known about how class really works, and its importance is often downplayed or denied. In this important new volume, leading sociologists systematically examine how social class operates in the United States today. Social Class argues against the view that we are becoming a classless society. The authors show instead the decisive ways social class matters—from how long people live, to how they raise their children, to how they vote.

The distinguished contributors to Social Class examine how class works in a variety of domains including politics, health, education, gender, and the family. Michael Hout shows that class membership remains an integral part of identity in the U.S.—in two large national surveys, over 97 percent of Americans, when prompted, identify themselves with a particular class. Dalton Conley identifies an intangible but crucial source of class difference that he calls the “opportunity horizon”—children form aspirations based on what they have seen is possible. The best predictor of earning a college degree isn’t race, income, or even parental occupation—it is, rather, the level of education that one’s parents achieved. Annette Lareau and Elliot Weininger find that parental involvement in the college application process, which significantly contributes to student success, is overwhelmingly a middle-class phenomenon. David Grusky and Kim Weeden introduce a new model for measuring inequality that allows researchers to assess not just the extent of inequality, but also whether it is taking on a more polarized, class-based form. John Goldthorpe and Michelle Jackson examine the academic careers of students in three social classes and find that poorly performing students from high-status families do much better in many instances than talented students from less-advantaged families. Erik Olin Wright critically assesses the emphasis on individual life chances in many studies of class and calls for a more structural conception of class. In an epilogue, journalists Ray Suarez, Janny Scott, and Roger Hodge reflect on the media’s failure to report hardening class lines in the United States, even when images on the nightly news—such as those involving health, crime, or immigration—are profoundly shaped by issues of class.

Until now, class scholarship has been highly specialized, with researchers working on only one part of a larger puzzle. Social Class gathers the most current research in one volume, and persuasively illustrates that class remains a powerful force in American society.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780871545060
  • Publisher: Russell Sage Foundation
  • Publication date: 7/28/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

ANNETTE LAREAU is professor of sociology at University of Maryland, College Park.

DALTON CONLEY is University Professor at New York University.

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Table of Contents

Pt. I Conceptions of Social Class

Introduction Taking Stock of Class Annette Lareau Lareau, Annette 3

Ch. 1 How Class Works: Objective and Subjective Aspects of Class Since the 1970s Michael Hout Hout, Michael 25

Ch. 2 Are There Social Classes? A Framework for Testing Sociology's Favorite Concept David B. Grusky Grusky, David B. Kim A. Weeden Weeden, Kim A. 65

Pt. II Social Class in Daily Life: How Does It Work?

Ch. 3 Education-Based Meritocracy: The Barriers to Its Realization John Goldthorpe Goldthorpe, John Michelle Jackson Jackson, Michelle 93

Ch. 4 Class and the Transition to Adulthood Annette Lareau Lareau, Annette Elliot B. Weininger Weininger, Elliot B. 118

Ch. 5 Breaking the Class Monolith: Understanding Class Differences in Black Adolescents' Attachment to Racial Identity Karyn Lacy Lacy, Karyn Angel L. Harris Harris, Angel L. 152

Ch. 6 Bringing Sibling Differences In: Enlarging Our Understanding of the Transmission of Advantage in Families Dalton Conley Conley, Dalton 179

Ch. 7 Class and Politics Jeff Manza Manza, Jeff Clem Brooks Brooks, Clem 201

Ch. 8 Social Inequality and Health: Future Directions for the Fundamental Cause Explanation Richard M. Carpiano Carpiano, Richard M. Bruce G. Link Link, Bruce G. Jo C. Phelan Phelan, Jo C. 232

Ch. 9 Race, Class, and Neighborhoods Mary Pattillo Pattillo, Mary 264

Ch. 10 What Does Class Inequality Among Women Look Like? A Comparison with Men and Families, 1970 to 2000 Leslie McCall McCall, Leslie 293

Pt. III Reflections on Class

Ch. 11 Logics of Class Analysis Erik Olin Wright Wright, Erik Olin 329

Ch. 12 Two Oppositions in Studies of Class: A Reflection John GoldthorpeGoldthorpe, John 350

Ch. 13 Reflection on "Class Matters" Janny Scott Scott, Janny 354

Ch. 14 Class Notes Roger D. Hodge Hodge, Roger D. 359

Ch. 15 Holding Up a Mirror to a Classless Society Ray Suarez Suarez, Ray 361

Ch. 16 Reading Class Between the Lines (of This Volume): A Reflection on Why We Should Stick to Folk Concepts of Social Class Dalton Conley Conley, Dalton 366

Index 375

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