with Sarah A. Damaske

How can we reconcile ethnographic studies that explain how families and neighborhoods transmit group inequality to new generations with studies that document the acquisition of cultural capital and the substantial diversity among children who share similar backgrounds? To unravel this paradox, this project is examining the variety of pathways that children take to adulthood, asking why some are able to exceed their parents’ attainments and others are not. In contrast to theories that focus on the shared family and neighborhood cultures that transfer disadvantage, we attend to children’s diverse experiences within and outside the home. When do families leave working-class children ill-prepared to meet the challenges of middle-class institutions, and when do they provide critical support to overcome institutional obstacles? When do non-family groups and institutions place obstacles in children’s paths, and when do they provide needed support to overcome family disadvantages? Since working-class families and neighborhoods vary in their ability to constrain or support, we investigate how families and non-family institutions converge in different combinations to propel children toward divergent life paths.