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Jessica Calarco

My research is primarily ethnographic (qualitative) in nature, and focuses on issues related to education, family, children and youth, culture, and stratification. I am particularly interested in understanding how interactions between individuals and institutions vary along social class lines, and what consequences those interactions have for the equality of opportunities in those settings.  One recent project examines social class differences in children’s classroom help-seeking. Through observations and interviews with children, parents, and teachers, I find that middle-class children seek help more readily and assertively than do their working-class peers. Teachers, in turn, tend to be subconsciously more responsive to “squeaky wheels,” meaning that middle-class children generally secure more individualized attention and support in the classroom. Exploring the origins of these class-based orientations, I find that children learn at home how to interact with their teachers, with middle-class parents actively encouraging and even coaching their children to “be their own advocates” in the classroom, and working-class parents instead teaching children to be respectful and self-reliant.  In other related projects, I consider whether children (and adults) can acquire class-based interactional skills not only at home, but also through their interactions with peers.