Drawing on a variety of data sources, much of it unpublished, Annette Lareau presents qualitative research revealing the nuanced ways that cultural knowledge can be consequential in mobility journeys. Her longitudinal data from her book Unequal Childhoods highlights how young adults’ knowledge of navigating institutional barriers, particularly in higher education, can have key consequences. A recent book with Blair Sackett, We Thought It would be Heaven: Refugees in an Unequal America, illuminates how organizations routinely made errors which thwarted the paths of refugees in Philadelphia from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  They show the impact of these errors, particularly in the delivery of services, and how cultural knowledge was essential to untangling the “knots” that arise. While extensive work has documented the crucial role of material resources, Annette Lareau draws our attention to the complex ways in which class-based cultural knowledge creates barriers and opportunities for a racially-diverse sample of young people from different class locations.

Annette Lareau is a Professor of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. In 2024, she is a Leverhulme Professorial Research Fellow in the Department of Sociology at London School of Economics. She is the author of the award-winning books Unequal ChildhoodsHome Advantage, and Listening to People. With Blair Sackett, she authored We Thought It Would be Heaven: Refugees in an Unequal America (University of California Press). She is currently doing a study of the blessings and challenges of wealth for families. Annette Lareau is Past President of the American Sociological Association.

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