American Sociological Association

Talk on the Playground: The Neighborhood Context of School Choice

Despite consensus that neighborhoods influence children's outcomes, we know less about the mechanisms that cause neighborhood inequality and produce those outcomes. Existing research overlooks how social networks develop among people at similar points in the life course through repeated interactions in neighborhoods. Existing studies do not illuminate the ways in which these geographically based networks can influence life‐altering decisions. In this article, we use qualitative interviews with White, middle‐class parents in gentrifying neighborhoods in a large Northeastern city to examine how parents decided where to send their children to kindergarten. Parents reported relying heavily on information that they received from their network of other neighborhood parents whom they had befriended on the playground or at daycare in the course of their daily child‐rearing routines. The daily routines of child rearing led to rich and important social networks. But tensions also emerged among parents as they made different decisions about where to send their children to kindergarten. By focusing on how life course stages affect how people use space and interact in neighborhood spaces, we can better understand how neighborhood spaces shape the decision‐making process of school choice.

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Michael D. M. Bader, Annette Lareau, and Shani A. Evans





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