Karl Alexander, Chair and John Dewey Professor of Sociology presents a keynote address at the 2012 Sociology of Education Association Conference – February 24 – 26. “The Long Shadow: Family Background, Disadvantaged Urban Youth and the Transition to Adulthood”
Abstract: A study of intergenerational mobility focused on the experience of the Beginning School Study 25 year Baltimore panel, The Long Shadow reveals two mobility regimes. The first is the familiar status attainment process, in which success in school helps preserve middle class privilege across generations. However, hardly any disadvantaged urban youth in the BSS Youth Panel finish college (two-year or four-year) and so the second mobility regime is more relevant to their well-being in adulthood. It privileges working class white men through access to high wage employment in the remnants of Baltimore’s old industrial economy and then, derivatively, their wives and partners who pair off with them. Family social capital is a key resource for working class status attainment, but capital of a rather different kind than in studies of schooling: in the blue collar workforce, help “on the ground” in finding work is what counts.