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What happened to working-class New York? What are the authors conclusions about which factors have contributed to the shrinking of union power in

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What happened to working-class New York?

What are the author’s conclusions about which factors have contributed to the shrinking of union power in New York and the financial challenges faced by middle- and lower-income New Yorkers today?


Coached for the classroom: Parents’ cultural transmission and children’s reproduction of educational inequalities

Provide specific details of the ethnographic method used in this study. Do you feel this was an effective research method? Why or why not? What do you think are the implications of the findings for understanding the impact of social class in the educational setting?

  • Cite any sources, including assigned readings, according to APA citation guidelines.
  • Write two paragraphs for each articles


What happened to working-class New York?

What are the author’s conclusions about which factors have contributed to the shrinking of union power in New York and the financial challenges faced by middle- and lower-income New Yorkers today?


Coached for the classroom: Parents’ cultural transmission and children’s reproduction of educational inequalities

Provide specific details of the ethnographic method used in this study. Do you feel this was an effective research method? Why or why not? What do you think are the implications of the findings for understanding the impact of social class in the educational setting?

· Cite any sources, including assigned readings, according to APA citation guidelines.

· Write two paragraphs for each articles


The Nation. 15May 6, 2013

H urricane Sandy pushed into view echelons of working-class New Yorkers normally hidden behind workplace walls or in obscure neighbor- hoods, or made invisible by familiarity and indifference. There, suddenly center stage, was the old, heavily Catholic, white work- ing class. Some of the most devastated parts of the city, like Breezy Point and Gerritsen Beach, seemed frozen in time, neighbor- hoods of Irish- and Italian-American police- men, firefighters, blue-collar workers and politicians, still reflecting a New York domi- nated by European immigrants and their children. As on 9/11, heroic rescue efforts by the Fire Department exposed how white and male it has remained, even as the city’s population has become ever more diverse.

Newer immigrants, too, were thrust into the spotlight, like Philippines-born Menchu de Luna Sanchez , one of the nurses who car- ried sick infants down pitch-black stairways when flooding forced the evacuation of New

York University’s Langone Medical Center. President Obama hailed her in his State of the Union address. Even much poorer New Yorkers received attention, like the thousands of public housing residents stranded for days and sometimes weeks in high-rise buildings without power, heat, water or elevator ser- vice. On the Upper East Side of Manhattan, undamaged by the storm, well-heeled dads and moms found themselves in the unac- customed position of trying to amuse their housebound children for hours on end, as the low-paid, immigrant child-minders who pour into wealthy neighborhoods each morning were themselves trapped at home.

New York, at least numerically, has long been a working-class city. Today, there are far fewer manufacturing workers than a generation or two ago and many more service workers, far fewer immigrants from Europe and many more from Asia and

Central America. But perhaps the biggest change is that workers and their families are less socially visible than in the past, except when disaster hits or conflicts break out— like Sandy or the school bus drivers’ strike earlier this year. Increasingly, the image of the city as the home to great wealth or layabout hipsters (sometimes, as on Girls, living off their parents’ bank accounts) has camouflaged the struggle of middle- and lower-income New Yorkers simply to get by.

Trouble Beneath the Surface At first glance, workers in New York,

compared with most of the country, are doing well. At the start of last year, nation- ally only a third of the jobs lost to the Great Recession had been regained, but New York City had already bounced back to its pre- recession employment level. In December 2012, the city had more than 3.9 million jobs, the most ever. And more of those jobs were unionized than almost anywhere else. A recent report by Ruth Milkman and Laura Braslow, put out by the City University of New York’s Joseph S. Murphy Institute and its Center for Urban Research, found that more than 22 percent of NYC work-


Joshua Freeman is the author of Working-Class New York: Life and Labor Since World War II. His most recent book, American Empire, 1945– 2000, will appear in paperback in July.

Low-wage workers rally for better pay in Times Square.








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The Nation. 17May 6, 2013

ers belonged to a union, nearly twice the national level. With its huge mass transit system, government-regulated rents, low- cost public university, large public hospital system, generous Medicaid program, and sprawling network of government and non- profit social services, New York provides working families with a set of benefits and opportunities few cities can match.

But scratch a little and things do not look so good. During the recession, the city had big job losses in relatively well-paid sec- tors, including government, construction, manufacturing, finance and insurance, and wholesale trade. The biggest gains since then have been in low-paid industries: res- taurants, retail trade and home healthcare. Between July 2008 and July 2012, New York City had a net loss of nearly 60,000 jobs paying $45,000 a year or more, while gain- ing more than 130,000 jobs paying less than $45,000 [see chart, page 18]. The chang- ing mix contributed to a nearly 8 percent drop in real median wage earnings between 2008 and 2011. An analysis by Hofstra University economists Gregory DeFreitas and Bhaswati Sengupta suggests that many newly created jobs have gone to commuters, exacerbating the difficulty city dwellers face in getting good jobs. For residents of the five boroughs, the official unemployment rate in February was 9.1 percent, well over the national level of 7.7 percent. Though New York is festooned with displays of lux- ury, its median household income is below the national median and falling. In 2011, 21 percent of New Yorkers lived in poverty, compared with 16 percent nationally.

The public services that generations of New Yorkers fought for are frayed, or worse. In the face of chronic government under- funding, CUNY has turned to raising tuition to balance its budget, increasing student costs (for those without scholarships) by nearly a third over a five-year period. The MTA just hiked bus and subway fares. Public housing is in such miserable shape after cuts in federal support and inattention by the city that the backlog of repairs has reached two years, with moldy walls, leaking ceilings, no heat and chronically broken elevators com- monplace. Portuguese photographer Ana Brigida, who documented public housing conditions during a visit to New York, told The New York Times, “Sometimes you just can’t believe that people live like that…. How a place can actually be so destroyed.”

Shrinking union power has contributed to the slip in living standards and public

services. While union density in the city remains high by national stand ards, it has fallen by 13 percent since the mid-1980s, when more than 35 percent of New York workers carried a union card. All of the recent decline has been in the private sector, where now less than 13 percent of the work- force is unionized. Some of the membership drop came in industries like manufacturing, where total employment fell, but much of it occurred in sectors like wholesale and retail trade and leisure and hospitality, where employment has been rising.

Unions Lose Their Stride The recent strike by 8,800 school bus

drivers and matrons exposed the weakness of organized labor in New York. Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s desire to lower the cost of transporting students by rebidding the city’s contracts with bus companies set off the conflict. Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181 wanted the city to require the bidders to accept a provision it won after a three-month strike in 1979, mandating that new vendors hire the employees of the

losing bidders according to seniority, thus providing its members with job security. The city refused, saying a recent court decision would make doing so illegal. In response, the workers called a strike, a rarity these days in a metropolis where walkouts were once so common that, in 1968, labor reporter A.H. Raskin dubbed it “Strike City” in a New York Times Magazine story. This time, however, the mayor refused to budge; bus companies began recruiting replacement workers; and the strikers’ health insurance ran out. After four weeks, the union threw in the towel, returning to work with only a fig leaf to cover its defeat: a pledge by the leading Democratic candidates likely to replace Bloomberg that, if elected, they would protect the job secu- rity, wages and benefits of the bus workers. In late March, the companies informed the employees—who still lack a contract—that they will be imposing a 7.5 percent pay cut, eliminating pay during the Christmas and Easter school breaks, and requiring larger contributions for health insurance.

The striking bus union had some par- ticular disadvantages. Linked to organized

crime until federal prosecutors stepped in, it had weak ties to other unions and failed to build community or political support before the walkout. The lukewarm backing from organized labor suggests a larger prob- lem. The big unions that dominate New York labor, like the building service work- ers (SEIU Local 32BJ), healthcare workers (1199SEIU), United Federation of Teachers and electrical workers (IBEW Local 3), have an unstated confidence that they can rely on their own power to defend themselves. The very success of organized labor in New York makes it act less like a movement than it does elsewhere. Vinny Alvarez, the presi- dent of the New York City Central Labor Council, thinks that situation is chang- ing, as the big local unions—as large in membership and capacity as some national unions—“realize that as smaller unions get annihilated, in the end it will expose them.” The bus strike could be a wake-up call.

In recent years, power has been drain- ing out of even some of the strongest New York unions. In the construction, hotel and communications industries—longtime

union strongholds—nonunion operations have carved out big niches. In the public sector, too, unions have been weakened, as Bloomberg has taken a hard line oppos- ing pay boosts. One municipal union after another has decided to avoid open battle, hoping for a friendlier successor and a more hospitable fiscal environment. Every one of the city’s 152 union contracts has expired (though under state law their terms remain in effect until new agreements are reached). The stalling tactic—“recognition we don’t have anyone on the other side to negotiate with,” as Arthur Cheliotes, head of a local that represents thousands of city administrative workers, terms it—might ultimately pay off, but it seems unlikely that city employees will ever make up the losses they have suffered from frozen wages while living costs have kept rising. As unions wait out the clock, their members have become demobilized. With so few pri- vate sector unionists to ally with, the once mighty municipal unions are ill-prepared if some future mayor or governor decides to launch a Wisconsin-style attack on them.


The Nation.18 May 6, 2013

A Cold Climate for Organizing The revitalization of the New York labor

movement requires organizing private sec- tor workers, and lots of them. That’s a heavy lift. An effort by the Communications Workers of America to unionize Cablevision has been what Bob Master, a union official, called “a textbook example of how difficult it is to organize.” A year ago, nearly 300 technicians and dispatchers in Brooklyn— almost all African-American or Caribbean— voted to unionize, only to have the company spurn serious bargaining. In January, it fired twenty-two workers for requesting a meet- ing with managers. After seven weeks of

pressure from the union, community groups and local politicians, Cablevision rehired the workers, but a contract is nowhere in sight.

At least the CWA is trying. Ed Ott, for- mer executive director of the Central Labor Council, sees no “culture of organizing in the labor movement of New York.”

A few innovative efforts are under way, targeting low-wage workers in jobs that can- not be relocated. The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (part of the United Food and Commercial Workers) won rec- ognition votes last fall for workers at five car washes, an industry notorious for low wages, long hours, unsafe conditions, and violations of wage and hour laws [see Lizzy Ratner’s article on]. SEIU Local 32BJ, which already represents 15,000 secu- rity guards from Connecticut to Washington, DC, has been organizing low-paid secu- rity workers at New York–area airports. Fast

Food Forward, backed by the national SEIU and community and civil rights groups, led a one-day walkout during the holiday sea- son at Wendy’s and other restaurant chains, demanding higher pay and better conditions, and staged another in early April.

The militancy and innovative tactics of these normally invisible workers have pro- vided labor with a much-needed charge, but the resources involved and the gains so far have been modest. Any transformative effort—like a push to organize bank employ- ees tied to a campaign against bank lending and fee practices, promoted by Stephen Lerner before he was forced out of the SEIU

leadership—would require a much greater commitment of money and political clout.

Ott thinks the greatest promise for reviv- ing labor may lie with nontraditional worker organizations like the Taxi Workers Alliance, which represents nominally self-employed cabdrivers in their dealings with govern- ment regulatory agencies and the com- panies from whom they lease their cars; Domestic Workers United, an organization of Caribbean, Latin and African caregivers and housekeepers, which won a major victory in 2010 when the state legislature passed the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights, mandating overtime, vacation pay and protection against sexual harassment for workers previously uncovered by labor law; and the Restaurant Opportunities Center, which charged some high-profile restaurants, like Mario Batali’s Del Posto, with labor law violations and won. But as impressive as these well- publicized

groups are, their gains have been limited and, except for the taxi workers, their dues-paying memberships small.

Worker alliances, some traditional unions, community groups like Make the Road New York, the union-backed Working Families Party and the Faith Caucus of religious leaders have joined to pursue another strat- egy to improve life for low-wage workers: “living wage” laws that set minimal wage levels (above the general minimum wage) and mandate benefits for employees of companies and nonprofit agencies receiving government funds. A 2002 city ordinance, according to Stephanie Luce, a leading scholar of living- wage efforts, was one of the “most extensive” in the country, pushing up the wages of 50,000 home healthcare workers and thou- sands of others. But it has been harder going since then. A 2012 law intended to ben- efit workers at developments subsidized with public money was greatly whittled down. A proposed ordinance requiring employers to provide paid sick leave was bottled up for years by City Council president Christine Quinn, before she finally relented early this spring and agreed to allow a weakened ver- sion of the original proposal to come to a vote. Luce believes that living-wage coali- tions have not been as successful in New York as they have in California because some pow- erful unions have cut their own deals with the city, dropping out of broader initiatives.

In some respects, working-class New York is thriving. With more than 40 percent of the workforce foreign-born, it has a cultural vibrancy only occasionally noted in the main- stream media (except in reviews of ethnic res- taurants), but evident to any casual visitor to immigrant neighborhoods. People still flock to New York from all over the world seeking economic opportunities and personal free- dom. (At more than 8.3 million people, the city is as large as ever.) With the city’s streets extraordinarily safe, with municipal services under Bloomberg generally well run, if you own a home with an affordable mortgage or have a rent-regulated apartment, and if your children are lucky enough to go to schools that are not failing and you have managed to keep steady work at decent pay, you might well be better off than you were a dozen years ago. But for hundreds of thousands of working-class families with unsteady work, low wages, unaffordable housing, crummy schools and no union representation, New York City has failed miserably—a wealthy, self-congratulatory metropolis, whose pride of place rests on willful blindness. ■ IM








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American Sociological Review 2014, Vol. 79(5) 1015 –1037 © American Sociological Association 2014 DOI: 10.1177/0003122414546931

Children are not passive players in the repro- duction of social inequalities. We know that children’s behaviors vary with social class and generate stratified profits in school (Calarco 2011; Farkas 1996; Streib 2011). Less clear is how children learn to activate class-based strategies and how those lessons contribute to stratification. Scholars typically treat cultural acquisition as an implicit pro- cess in which class-based childrearing prac- tices automatically shape children’s behavior (Arnett 1995; Heath 1983; Lareau 2011). Given parents’ active management of chil- dren’s lives (Edwards 2004; Lareau 2000; Nelson 2010) and children’s active resistance to parents’ desires (Chin and Phillips 2004; Pugh 2009), however, cultural transmission may involve more agency than implicit socialization models imply. Furthermore, while scholars assume that parents’ cultural

coaching reproduces inequalities (e.g., Lar- eau 2011), research has not linked these efforts to their payoff for children in school.

To investigate these possibilities, this study examines how parents actively transmit culture to children, how children respond, and how those responses generate stratified prof- its. I base these analyses on a longitudinal ethnographic study of middle- and working- class families in one elementary school. I conducted observations and in-depth interviews with the children, their parents,

546931ASRXXX10.1177/0003122414546931American Sociological ReviewCalarco 2014

aIndiana University

Corresponding Author: Jessica McCrory Calarco, Indiana University, Department of Sociology, 1020 East Kirkwood Avenue, Ballantine Hall, 744 Bloomington, IN 47405-7103 E-mail: [email protected]

Coached for the Classroom: Parents’ Cultural Transmission and Children’s Reproduction of Educational Inequalities

Jessica McCrory Calarcoa

Abstract Scholars typically view class socialization as an implicit process. This study instead shows how parents actively transmit class-based cultures to children and how these lessons reproduce inequalities. Through observations and interviews with children, parents, and teachers, I found that middle- and working-class parents expressed contrasting beliefs about appropriate classroom behavior, beliefs that shaped parents’ cultural coaching efforts. These efforts led children to activate class-based problem-solving strategies, which generated stratified profits at school. By showing how these processes vary along social class lines, this study reveals a key source of children’s class-based behaviors and highlights the efforts by which parents and children together reproduce inequalities.

Keywords culture, inequality, education, family, children

1016 American Sociological Review 79(5)

and their teachers. I found that parents con- tributed to social reproduction by actively equipping children with class-based strategies that generated unequal outcomes when acti- vated at school. Parents’ relationships with the school varied by social class and shaped their beliefs about teachers’ behavioral expec- tations. Those beliefs led parents to adopt contrasting strategies for managing problems at school and to coach their children to do the same. Specifically, working-class parents stressed “no-excuses” problem-solving, encouraging children to respect teachers’ authority by not seeking help. Middle-class parents instead taught “by-any-means” problem- solving, urging children to negotiate with teachers for assistance. These ongoing and often deliberate coaching efforts equipped even reluctant children with the tools needed to activate class-based strategies on their own behalf. Such activation, in turn, prompted stratified responses from teachers and thus created unequal advantages in school.

This study has important implications. First, it clarifies class-based socialization models by showing that children’s acquisition of class-based behaviors is neither implicit nor automatic; rather, cultural transmission involves active efforts by both parents and children. Second, it helps explain class-stratified childrearing patterns, suggesting that parents’ efforts reflect beliefs stemming from their positions in the social hierarchy. Third, it demonstrates that by examining how cultural transmission varies along social class lines, and by linking these processes to their payoff in schools, we can better understand the mechanisms of social reproduction.

ClAss, CulTuRE, And REPRoduCTIon of InEquAlITIEs

Scholars conceptualize culture in myriad ways (Small, Harding, and Lamont 2010), but here I view culture as a “tool kit” that includes both “strategies of action” (Swidler 1986) and “log- ics of action” (DiMaggio 1997). Strategies of action are skills or behaviors used in social

situations (Bourdieu 1990; Lareau and Weininger 2003). Logics of action are frames for interpreting situations (Harding 2007; Small 2004). This view of culture recognizes that individuals might behave differently in the same situation because they possess different strategies for use in that situation, or because they interpret the situation differently and thus choose to activate different strategies.

While cultural tool kits have numerous dimensions (e.g., gender, age, race, and eth- nicity), research on tool kits generally focuses on social class (Bourdieu 1990; Lareau 2000). To identify social classes, tool-kit scholars typically use educational and occupational attainment (Aschaffenburg and Maas 1997; Condron 2009).1 In doing so, they find that middle- and working-class individuals per- ceive themselves differently in relation to dominant institutions and also possess differ- ent strategies for navigating those settings (Lamont 1992, 2009; Lubrano 2004; Stuber 2012). Compared to their working-class coun- terparts, middle-class individuals experience a stronger sense of belonging in schools and other institutional arenas (Carter 2005; Khan 2010; Lareau 2000; Lubrano 2004). They also see their status as equaling or surpassing that of institutional professionals and are thus more comfortable demanding accommoda- tions from institutions (Brantlinger 2003; Cucchiara and Horvat 2008; Lareau 2000).

Class-based cultural tool kits are closely linked to inequalities (Bourdieu 1990; Lareau and Weininger 2003). Within a social setting, behaviors will generate profits if they con- verge with the culture of that setting. Poorly aligned behaviors, in contrast, will produce few or no advantages, and may even result in sanctions.

Research shows, for example, that chil- dren’s activation of class-based tool kits can generate unequal advantages. In school, chil- dren tend to behave in class-patterned ways that produce stratified consequences (Heath 1983; Nelson and Schutz 2007; Streib 2011). Middle-class children more readily voice their needs and, in doing so, attract more immediate attention and more complete sup- port from teachers (Calarco 2011). These

Calarco 1017

inequalities reflect teachers’ and administra- tors’ expectations that students will behave in “middle-class” ways (Carter 2005; Farkas 1996; Mehan 1980; Wren 1999). While working-class students must play catch-up, middle-class students come to school ready to meet these expectations (Bernstein 1990; Foley 1990; Lubienski 2000) and to reap the benefits—including higher grades and higher competence ratings from teachers (Farkas 1996; Jennings and DiPrete 2010; Tach and Farkas 2006). What research on culture and classroom interactions has not examined, however, is how children learn these different strategies or why they activate them in the classroom.

fAMIlIEs And REPRoduCTIon of InEquAlITIEs

Socialization scholars imply that children’s class-based behaviors emerge automatically in response to class-based childrearing practices (Arnett 1995). Middle- and working-class parents typically adopt different childrearing styles, and their children behave in different ways (Chin and Phillips 2004; Edwards 2004; Heath 1983). Lareau (2011:6), for example, shows middle-class parents allowing children to negotiate and assert themselves and their children displaying an “emerging sense of entitlement.” Working-class parents, in turn, emphasize obedience and deference to author- ity, and their children demonstrate an “emerg- ing sense of constraint.” Lareau concludes that children’s behaviors are likely an implicit and automatic response to class-based childrearing practices.

Such explanations, however, have two important limitations. First, they ignore the possibility of more active cultural transmis- sion (Elder 1974; Pugh 2009; Thorne 1993). Research shows that parents and children can both be very strategic in their actions. Middle- class parents, for example, intervene for their children at school (Brantlinger 2003; Lareau 2000; Nelson 2010), and working-class par- ents try to manage how their families are

perceived by others (Edwards 2004). Yet, because scholars pay little attention to the log- ics of action that guide childrearing decisions, it is unclear whether or how parents deliber- ately try to equip children to manage their own challenges. Similarly, while scholars have documented children’s rejection of par- ents’ wishes (Chin and Phillips 2004; Pugh 2009; Zelizer 2002), they have not fully explored how children come to accept and utilize parents’ class-based lessons. Lareau (2011), for example, observed children only in interactions with parents and did not conduct interviews with them. Thus, she cannot say how children behave in their parents’ absence or how children make sense of and internalize what they learn.

Second, socialization research has done little to link class-based cultural transmission to social reproduction. Lareau (2011), for example, assumes that class-based childrear- ing patterns matter for inequalities. Yet, she does not show how children’s entitlement or constraint generates stratified profits. Overall, while existing research highlights important social class differences in childrearing, chil- dren’s behaviors, and classroom advantages, we know little about how the active efforts of parents and children contribute to cultural transmission or how this transmission repro- duces inequalities.

This study examines these possibilities, considering how parents prompt children to activate class-based behaviors and how those efforts contribute to social reproduction. I do so by answering the following research questions:

1. How do parents’ understandings of appropriate classroom behavior vary with social class?

2. How do parents actively teach children class-based behaviors?

3. How do children come to activate par- ents’ preferred behaviors?

4. How does this activation reproduce social inequalities?

I answer these questions with data from a longitudinal, ethnographic study of middle-

1018 American Sociological Review 79(5)

and working-class, white families whose chil- dren attended the same elementary school.

REsEARCh METhods Research Site and Sample

Maplewood (all names are pseudonyms) is a public elementary school near a large, Eastern city (see Figure 1). While most of Maple- wood’s families are middle-class, many (~30 percent) are working-class. This allowed me to compare how middle- and working-class parents and children interact with each other and with the same teachers. My connections

to the community (a close relative is a Maple- wood employee) facilitated access to the site and acceptance of the project.

At Maplewood, I chose one cohort (four classrooms) of students to follow from 3rd to 5th grade. The minority population at Maple- wood was small and stratified, including middle- class Asian Americans and working-class Latinos. Thus, to avoid conflating race and class, I focused on white students. I also excluded students who moved away. See Table 1 for sample characteristics and recruit- ment procedures.

I used surveys and school records to iden- tify students’ social class backgrounds,

MAPLEWOOD Public School 500 students Grades K–5 82% White 9% Latino 6% Asian American 3% African American

Home Types: Apartments, mobile homes, small single-family homes

Home Values: $150K to $250K

Jobs: Plumber; daycare provider; sales clerk; waitress; truck driver; etc.

Home Types: Medium to large single-family homes

Home Values: $250K to $2M

Jobs: Doctor/nurse; lawyer; teacher; business manager; accountant; etc.





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