The intersection of race and class in American life is an important but often vexing subject for sociologists. The power of social class is often obscured by the visibility of race. Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life, by Annette Lareau, was written in part because she wanted to make class real by showing how it works in everyday life. Lareau hoped that by capturing the day-to-day rhythms of life in different kinds of families—those of middle-class, working-class, and poor Whites and African Americans—she could help bring the seemingly intractable problem of inequality into clearer focus.

Most of the 88 families that Lareau and her research assistants interviewed during the first stage of research had children in the third or fourth grade in elementary schools in ...

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