Jessica Calarco

Negotiating Opportunities

How the Middle Class Secures Advantages in School

Oxford University Press 2018

New Books in American StudiesNew Books in AnthropologyNew Books in EducationNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in SociologyNew Books Network May 24, 2018 Sarah E. Patterson

In what ways do middle class students obtain advantages in schools? In her new book, Negotiating Opportunities: How the Middle Class Secures Advantages in...

In what ways do middle class students obtain advantages in schools? In her new book, Negotiating Opportunities: How the Middle Class Secures Advantages in School (Oxford University Press, 2018), Jessica McCrory Calarco uses ethnographic data to elaborate on what she calls “negotiated advantage.” By understanding students as active agents in their own everyday lives, Calarco discovers that middle class student negotiate particular advantages over their working class peers. These advantages include more attention from the teacher, more accommodations, and more assistance. Calarco explores each of these advantages in turn, finding that often classroom expectations are unclear and student fall back on coaching learned from parents in terms of how they should behave in school. It is in these behaviors that we see a divide between working class students and middle class students and their outcomes. Overall, this book presents clear examples from the data and lays out the main takeaway throughout the text.

This book will be of interest to sociologists in general, but especially to those working in social stratification and education. Anyone involved in the education system, from elementary to higher education, should pick up this book. In terms of using the text in the classroom, this book would be easily accessed by undergraduates, but would also pair incredibly well with other stand-alone texts used in a graduate level course on stratification or focusing on education.


Sarah E. Patterson is a postdoc at the University of Western Ontario. You can tweet her at @spattersearch.