Growing Up in America: The Power of Race in the Lives of Teens

Growing Up in America: The Power of Race in the Lives of Teens

Growing Up in America: The Power of Race in the Lives of Teens

Growing Up in America: The Power of Race in the Lives of Teens


People's experiences of racial inequality in adulthood are well documented, but less attention is given to the racial inequalities that children and adolescents face. Growing Up in America provides a rich, first-hand account of the different social worlds that teens of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds experience. In their own words, these American teens describe, conflicts with parents, pressures from other teens, school experiences, and religious beliefs that drive their various understandings of the world.

As the book reveals, teens' unequal experiences have a significant impact on their adult lives and their potential for social mobility. Directly confronting the constellation of advantages and disadvantages white, black, Hispanic, and Asian teens face today, this work provides a framework for understanding the relationship between socialization in adolescence and social inequality in adulthood. By uncovering the role racial and ethnic differences play early on, we can better understand the sources of inequality in American life.


“Children are our future.” We have heard this saying many times, haven't we? Songs have even been written about it. Packed into this four-word cliché is the idea that society needs to invest in its children. Society ought to provide the support, knowledge, and skills members of the next generation will need one day when they are in control and responsible for strong, healthy, advancing communities.

Now when we actually look at a variety of social and economic “outcomes” for young people in the United States, what do we find? We learn that our society seems to consider some young people more vital to our future than others. in particular, society invests in young white people more than young people of color. This is evident in a variety of arenas. For example, white youth are more likely to have health coverage than racial and ethnic minority youth. More money is spent on the education of white youth than on youth of color. Up-todate computers and the Internet are more easily accessed by white youth than racial and ethnic minority youth, resulting in youth of color being left behind in the Digital Age.

Of course, other factors, particularly class, influence society's investment in young people. But even before the United States was a country, people have been organized primarily around race and ethnicity. These characteristics have in many ways dictated people's upward socioeconomic mobility. Most of us are well aware of the United States' history of slavery, followed by Jim Crow in the South. But it is also true that neighborhoods and suburbs in the North orchestrated what amounted to segregation by adopting policies that prevented homeowners from selling to African-Americans. With few exceptions, labor unions limited African-Americans' opportunities to jobs with the least chance for . . .

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