It will take about an hour to watch this lecture by Annette Lareau as she follows up her original research (early 2000s) on children in middle class and working class families, with how they did as young adults. I’d noticed in stores how differently some parents talk to their children (who may be in the shopping cart). Although these days, they may be talking on the phone! Often I wish they’d just shut up. My goodness, they talk and talk and talk. But some don’t. Low income parents talk much less to their children, and by the time kids get to school there is an enormous gap in vocabulary. But her research goes a lot deeper—about how middle class families “untie knots,” research ways to do things better, get the better school, or teacher, or activity. They have different social networks, they marry different people, and live in different neighborhoods which have different schools.
It’s worth watching. But I don’t buy any government solution for this which we’ll hear from the academics. The common complaint will increasingly be “white privilege,” but Lareau found similar attitudes in black and white families who are in the same socio-economic class. Fathers are more likely to be present in the middle class families; parents have more education; more sibling rivalry in middle class families; more talking; more boredom among middle class kids; and middle class kids stay “younger” longer with fewer responsibilities. Race was not as big an issue as values and attitudes. Many middle class teaching approaches are the opposite of what works with low income kids. Drilling and memorization work well for them—just not for the teachers. Immigrant parents seem to have stronger academic standards for their children which may be lost by the 3rd generation.