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Moving up with Kin and Community: Upward Social Mobility for Black and White Women Author(s): Elizabeth Higginbotham and Lynn Weber Source: Gender and Society, Vol. 6, No. 3, This Issue Is Devoted to: Race, Class, and Gender (Sep., 1992), pp. 416-440 Published by: Sage Publications, Inc. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/189995 Accessed: 11/05/2010 18:47 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=sage. Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.

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MOVING UP WITHKIN AND COMMUNITY: UpwardSocial Mobilityfor Black and White Women ELIZABETH HIGGINBOTHAM LYNN WEBER Memphis State University

The major aim of this research is to reopen the study of the subjective experience of upward mobilityand to incorporaterace and gender into our vision of theprocess. It examinesevidence from a social science study of upward mobility among 200 Black and white professionalmanagerialwomenin the Memphis,Tennesseemetropolitanarea. Theexperiencesof the women paint a differentpicturefrom the image of the mobilityprocess that remainsfrom scholarship conducted20 to 30 years ago on white males. Relationshipswithfamily of origin, partners, children,friends, and the wider communityshaped the way these womenenvision and accomplish mobilityand the way they sustain themselvesas professionalsand managers.

My parentsalways expected me to go to college. In my elementaryschool in Mississippi,we hadsplit-terms.Schools were closed in the fall so thatstudents could go in the fields and pick cotton. I rememberthinking,"If there is any way to get out of this field, I'm gonna takeit." At the end of October,I would go back to school, but otherchildrenwould still be working Inthe fields. And I thought,"There'sgot to be a way to help people do better."That's when I startedthinkingaboutgoing to college. -Earnstern Washington,Social Worker1 (Interviewed,Summer 1986) When women and people of color experience upward mobility in America, they scale steep structural as well as psychological barriers. The long process of moving from a working-class family of ongin to the professionalmanagerial class is full of twists and turns: choices made with varying degrees of information and varying options; critical junctures faced with support and encouragement or disinterest, rejection, or active discouragement; and interpersonal relationships in which basic understandings are conGENDER& SOCIETY,Vol. 6 No. 3, September1992 416-440 ? 1992 Sociologists for Women in Socety 416


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tinuously negotiated and renegotiated.It Is a fascinating process that profoundlyshapesthe lives of thosewho experienceit, as well as the lives of those aroundthem. Social mobility is also a process engulfed in myth. One need only pick up any newspaperor turnon the television to see that the myth of upwardmobility remainsfirmly entrenchedin Americanculture:Withhard work, talent,determination,and some luck,just aboutanyone can "makeit." By the late 1960s the studyof the subjectiveexperienceof social mobility startedto be overshadowedby quantitativeresearchidentifyingthe variables that predict status attainmentamong white men (e.g., father's occupation, father's education, son's education,son's firstjob). With the publicationof TheAmerican OccupationalStructureby Blau and Duncan(1967), research efforts shifted from the qualitativeinterpretationof face-to-face interviews and first-handobservations of social class to the quantitativeanalysis of national surveys. This shifted attentionin the stratificationliteraturefrom social psychological to structuralanalyses of mobility. Further,it changed the focus from understandingmobile individuals' lives m the context of changing relationshipswith family and community (cf. Blau 1956; E. Ellis 1958; R. Ellis and Lane 1963; LeMasters 1954; Stuckert 1963) to the detached analysis of the movementof individualcases througha mobilitytable (Brelger 1981; Cohen and Tyree 1986; Kerckhoff 1984; Knottnerus1987; Sewell, Haller,and Ohlendorf1970). Both the early qualitativestudies of the white male experience and the latershift to quantitativeanalysesof individuals'educationalandcareerpaths (even those works incorporatingwhite women and people of color; cf. Alexander and Ekland 1974; Fossett, Galle, and Kelley 1986; Hout 1984; Oliver and Glick 1982; Pomer 1986; Rosenfeld 1978; Sewell, Hauser,and Wolf 1980; TreimanandTerrell1975;Wright1979) leave social science with little understandingof the currentcontextsor subjectiveexperiencesof social mobility. Further,they leave a 20-year-old legacy of the image of mobility as a process that is experienced by white males as a competitive game in which individualplayers are isolated and detached from others. As Strauss (1971) then describedit, those who are upwardlymobile must raise work to primacy in their self-definition, take on a new reference group, embrace AUTHORS' NOTE: Theresearchreportedhere was supportedbyNational InstituteforMental Health GrantMH38769,coprmncpalinvestigatorsElizabethHiggmbothamand LynnWeber.We wish to thank the special issue editors. the editor, and the two anonymousrevtewersfor their suggestions and comments.Wealso appreciateAnne Eisenberg,Laura Harris, Laurie Powell, and Mary Beth Snappfor their assistance. REPRINT REQUESTS: Elizabeth Higginbotham,Centerfor Research on Women,Memphis State University,Memphis,TN38152.


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middle-classvalues and aspirations,and spend time with "therightpeople." To accomplishthis, working-classmen are expected to distancethemselves from their families and friends-a processfacilitatedby male socialization, which emphasizes independence,detachment,and rational (economically motivated)decision making. The study of the subjective experience of mobility ceased in the early 1970s, just as the largest ever influx of upwardlymobile individualsbegan to enter the professional managerialmiddle class. In just one generation, professional, managerial, and administrativepositions increased from 15 percent to 30 percent of the labor force (Ehrenrelchand Ehrenrelch1979; Vannemanand Cannon1987). This expansionof middle-classpositions also accompaniedthe civil rightsand women's movements,which broughtdown many race and gender barriersto occupationalattainmentand upwardclass mobility. Because of these shifts in the occupationalstructureand breakdowns in some race and gender barriers,more white women and people of color (especially of the baby boom generation)have expenenced upward social mobilityin the post-WorldWarIIperiodthanat anytime in this century (Fossett, Galle, and Kelley 1986). The broad goal of this article is to reopen the study of the contexts of mobility by examining the subjective expenence of upwardclass mobility among Black and white women of the baby boom generation.Two recent studieshave begunto explorethese mobilityissues with regardto Whitemen and teenagers(Ryan and Sackrey 1984; Steinitzand Solomon 1986). In this article,we seek to begin to lay a foundationfor futureexplorationsinto the ways thatrace and gender shape the class experienceof upwardmobility. The image of the isolated and detachedexperience of mobility that we have inheritedfrom past scholarshipis problematicfor anyone seeking to understandthe process for women or people of color. Twenty years of scholarshipin the studyof bothrace andgenderhas taughtus the importance of interpersonalattachmentsto the lives of women (cf. Miller 1986) and a commitmentto racialupliftamongpeople of color (cf. Anthony1980; Brown 1987; Collins 1990; Gilkes 1983). For example, recent researchon white women presentsa pictureof the female experiencethatemphasizescommitment, interdependence,and affiliations-especially with family. Farfrom a willingness to distance self from family for the greatergoal of "makingit," social relationshipsareviewed as thecoreof women's lives (Chodorow1978; Gilligan 1982). The psychologist Miller (1986, 83) notes: Women stay with, build on, and develop in the context of attachmentsand affiliations with others. Indeed, women's sense of self becomes very much


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organized around being able to make and then to maintain affiliations and relationships. Eventually, for many women the threat of disruption of an affiliation is perceived not as a loss of a relationshipbut as something closer to a total loss of self. McAdoo (1978) suggests that lacking wealth, the greatest gift a Black

family has been able to give to its childrenhas been the motivationandskills to succeed in school. Aspirations for college attendance and professional positions are stressed as family goals, and the entire family may make

sacrifices and provide support.Likewise, recent scholarshipon women of color (Collins 1990) notes that Black women have long seen the activist potential of education and have sought it as a cornerstone of community

development- a means of upliftingthe race.Whenwomen of color or white women are put at the centerof the analysisof upwardmobility,it is clear that differentquestionswill be raisedaboutsocial mobility and differentdescriptions of the process will ensue. This study seeks to bring race and gender into the study of the subjective experience of upwardsocial class mobility.Specifically, we seek to identify some commonalitiesanddifferencesin the ways thatBlack andwhite women experence certain key relationalaspects of the mobility process. First,we examine theirrelationshipswith family as reflected in parentalexpectations and supports for education, occupation/career,and marriageand children. Second, we explore the women's sense of debt and obligation to family and friends.Finally,we explore some ways thatmobile women's experiencesare situatedwithin the largercommunities-both Black and white.

RESEARCH METHODS Research design. These data are from a study of full-time employed middle-class women in the Memphis metropolitanarea. This research is designed to explore the processes of upwardsocial mobility for Black and white women by examiningdifferencesbetweenwomen professionals,managers, and administratorswho are from working- and middle-class backgrounds-that is, upwardlymobile and middle-class stable women. In this way, we isolate subjective processes sharedamong women who have been upwardlymobile from those common to women who have reproducedtheir family's professional-managerialclass standing.Likewise, we Identifycommon experiences in the attainmentprocess that are sharedby women of the same race, be they upwardly mobile or stable middle class. Finally, we specify some ways in which the attainmentprocess is unique for each raceclass group.


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Sample. The populationof interestwas defined as women of the "baby boom" cohort(i.e., 25 to 40 years of age at the time of the study) who were college graduateswho went to college directly from high school or within two yearsof graduationandwho were currentlyworkingfull-timeas professionals, managers,or administrators-that is, in "middle-class"occupations (VannemanandCannon1987). (Fora discussionof the rationalefor selecting these groups,see Cannon,Higginbotham,and Leung 1988). As is the case with many studies of special categories of women, there was no way to sample randomlythe populationwho fit the precedingstudy parameters.We employeda quotasample thatwas stratifiedby threedimensions of inequality:race,class backgroundof the respondent,and the gender compositionof heroccupation.Eachdimensionwas operationalizedinto two categones: Black and white, raised working class/upwardlymobile and raised middle class/middle-class stable, and female-dominatedand maledominated.Twenty-fivecases were selected for each of the eight cells of this 2 x 2 x 2 design. Forpurposesof this research,dataare analyzedby race and class backgroundonly. Withineach of thesecells, subjectswere selectedto reflectthe proportions of professionals, managers, and administratorsin the Memphis Standard MetropolitanStatisticalArea (SMSA, 60 percentprofessionalsand 40 percent managersand administratorsin the male-dominatedoccupations; 76 percent professionals and 24 percent managersand administratorsin the female-dominatedoccupations).Withineach gender-compositioncategory, particularoccupationswere selected for inclusion in the sample based on their proportionsamong professionals, managers,and administratorsin the SMSA. Finally, to avoid confounding race, class background,and occupation, subjectswere selected so that the differentrace and class-backgroundcategories contained women from the same or closely related occupations. Subjects were also sorted into three age groupingsdefined by birthcohort (1956-60, 1951-55, and 1945-50) to preventoverrepresentationof any age group In a race, class-background,or specific occupationalcategory. Procedures. Everyfew weeks, volunteerswho metall studyparameters (25-40 years of age; full-time employed professionals,managers,or administrators;and college graduateswho went directly to college) were sorted accordingto all of the stratifyingvariables(race, class, sex composition of occupation,professionalvs. managersand administrators;specific occupation; and age category). Subjects to be interviewed were then randomly


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selected from each pool. (A detailed descriptionof samplingprocedurescan be found in Cannon,Higginbotham,and Leung 1988.) Instrument. Datawere gatheredin face-to-face focused life-historyinterviews, lasting 212 to 3 hours each. The research instrumentcontained many items, including schooling experiences from elementary school throughcollege; early family experiences;perceived barriersto attainment and social supportnetworksat critical mobilityjunctures(from high school to college, Immediately after college, in graduate school); current work situation(includingperceivedjob stress, location in the administrativehierarchy,job rewards,perceptionsof discrimination,obstacles to attainment); integrationof work and personal life (including social support networks); and general well-being and physical health, life events, and mental health. Measurement. In this research, we rely on a model of social class basically derived from the work of Poulantzas(1974), Braverman(1974), Ehrenrelchand Ehrenreich(1979), andelaboratedin Vannemanand Cannon (1987). These works explicate a basic distinctionbetween social class and social status.Classes representboundedcategoriesof the population,groups set in a relationof opposition to one anotherby their roles in the capitalist system. The middle class, or professional-manageralclass, is set off from the working class by the power and control it exerts over workers in three realms: economic (power through ownership), political (power through direct supervisoryauthority),and ideological (power to plan and organize work; Poulantzas 1974; Vannemanand Cannon 1987). In contrast,education, prestige, and income representsocial statuseshierarchicallystructuredrelative rankingsalong a ladderof economic success and social prestige.Positions along these dimensionsarenot established by social relationsof dominance and subordinationbut, rather,as rankings on scales representingresources and desirability. In some respects, they representboth the justification for power differentialsvested in classes and the rewardsfor the role that the middle class plays in controllinglabor. Ourinterestis in the process of upwardsocial class mobility,moving from a working-class family of ongin to a middle-class destination-from a position of working-class subordinationto a position of control over the working class. Lacking inheritedwealth or other resources,those workingclass people who attain middle-class standingdo so primarilyby obtaining a college education and entering a professional,managerial,or administrative occupation. Thus we examine carefully the process of educational


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attainmentnot as evidence of middle-class standingbut as a necessary part of the mobility process for most working-classpeople. Likewise, occupationalone does not define the middle class, but professional, manageral, and administrativeoccupations capture many of the supervisoryand ideologically based positions whose function is to control workers'lives. Consequently,we defined subjectsas middle class by virtue of their employmentin either a professional,managerial,or administrative occupation as specified in Braverman(1974), Ehrenrelchand Ehrenrelch (1979), and Vannemanand Cannon(1987; see Cannon,Higginbotham,and Leung 1988 for exceptions). Classificationof subjectsas eitherprofessional was made on the basis of the designation of or managerial-administrative occupationsin the U.S. Bureauof the Census's (1983) "DetailedPopulation Characteristics:Tennessee."Managerialoccupationswere defined as those in the census categores of managersand administrators; professionalswere defined as those occupationsin the professionalcategory,excluding technicians, whom Braverman(1974) contends are worlkngclass. Upwardlymobilewomen were defined as those women raisedin families where neitherparentwas employed as a professional,manager,or administrator. Typical occupations for working-class fathers were postal clerk, craftsman,semi-skilled manufacturingworker,janitor, and laborer.Some working-classmothershadclercal andsales positions,butmanyof the Black mothers also worked as private household workers. Middle-class stable women were defined as those women raisedin families where either parent was employed as a professional,manager,or administrator. Typicaloccupations of middle-classparentswere social worker,teacher,and school administratoras well as high-statusprofessionalssuch as attorneys,physicians,and dentists. Data analysis. In the following section we presenta set of responsesto questions regarding the family, friend, and community relationships of upwardlymobile and middle-class stable Black and white women. Each of the questions provided a dichotomousresponse, yes or no, and then asked subjects to elaborate on their answers. Table 1 contains frequencies and percentagesof yes or affirmativeresponsesfor each questionby each of the four race-classbackgroundgroups: Black and white, upwardlymobile and middle-class stable. Since percentagesadd to 100, data on no or negative responses are not included. For each question, chi-square statistics are presentedfor threeanalyses:(1) a four-categoryindependentvariableincluding all race and class categores, labeled Total;(2) a race effect obtainedby collapsing class categores; (3) a class effect obtained by collapsing race


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categores. In additionto these data, quotes from respondentsthat explicate the response are also presented, along with some responses to open-ended questions.

RESULTS Relationships

with Family

Family expectations for educational attainment. Four questions assess the expectationsand supportamongfamily membersfor the educational attainmentof the subjects.First,"Do you recall your fatheror motherstressing that you attain an education?"Yes was the response of 190 of the 200 women. Each of the women in this study had obtaineda college degree, and many have graduatedegrees. It is clear that for Black and white women, educationwas an Importantconcern in theirfamilies (see Table 1, row 1). The commentsof LauraLee, a 39 year-oldBlack woman who was raised middle class, were typical: Goingto school,thatwasnevera discussableissue.Justlikeyouwerebornto liveanddie,youweregoingtogo toschool.Youweregoingtoprepare yourself to do something. It should be noted, however, that only 86 percentof the white workingclass women answered yes, compared to 98 percent of all other groups. Although this difference is small, it foreshadows a pattern where white women raised in working-class families received the least support and encouragementfor educationaland careerattainment. "Whenyou were growing up, how far did your fatherexpect you to go in school?" While most fathersexpected college attendancefrom theirdaughters, differences also exist by class of origin. Only 70 percent of the working-class fathers,both Black and white, expected their daughtersto attend college. In contrast,94 percent of the Black middle-class and 88 percentof the white middle-class women's fathers had college expectations for their daughters. When asked the same question about mother's expectations, 88 percent to 92 percent of each group's mothers expected their daughters to get a college education, except the white working-classwomen, for whom only 66 percentof mothersheld such expectations.In short,only among the white working-classwomen did a fairly substantialproportion(aboutone-third)of both mothers and fathers expect less than a college education from their


TABLE1: Family Supports for Educational and Occupational Achievement by Race and Cl Black

White

Upwardly Middle-Class Upwardly Middle-Cla Mobile Stable Mobile Stable Parentsstressed need foran education Fatherexpected college education Motherexpected college education Familyprovidedemotionalsupportfor college Financialaid fromfamilyforcollege Parentsstressed need foran occupation Familyencouragedrespondentto think aboutcareer Parentsstressed marriageas primary lifegoal Nevermarried Feelingof owing kin

98% (49) 69% (33) 88% (44) 64% (32) 56% (28) 94% (47) 56% (28) 6% (3) 34% (17) 86% (43)

98% (49) 94% (46) 88% (44) 86% (43) 90% (45) 94% (47) 60% (30) 4% (2) 24% (12) 74% (37)

86% (43) 70% (32) 66% (33) 56% (28) 62% (31) 56% (28) 40% (20) 22% (11) 20% (10) 46% (23)

98% (49) 88% (44) 92% (45) 70% (35) 88% (44) 70% (35) 52% (26) 18% (9) 34% (17) 68% (34)


Balanceof obligationsto kin Gave > received Received > gave Gave = received

of obligationsto friends Balance _. Gave > received Received > gave Gave = received

31% (15) 31% (15) 39% (18)

4% (2) 48% (22) 48% (22)

15% (7) 27% (13) 58% (28)

10% (5) 40% (19) 50% (24)

33% (16) 0% (0) 67% (33)

24% (12) 4% (2) 72% (36)

15% (7) 10% (5) 75% (36)

16% (8) 8%

NOTE:Numbersin parentheses representthe numberof people in each group *ps 05; **ps 01

U CA

(4) 76% (37)


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daughters. About 30 percent of Black working-class fathers held lower expectations for their daughters,but not the mothers;virtually all middleclass parentsexpected a college educationfor their daughters. Sara Marx is a white, 33-year-olddirectorof counseling raised in a rural working-class family. She is among those whose parentsdid not expect a college educationfor her.She was vague aboutthe rootsof attendingcollege: Itseemslikewe hada guestspeakerwhotalkedto us.Maybebeforeourexams somebodytalkedto us. I reallycan'tputmy fingeron anything.I don'tknow wheretheinformation camefromexactly. "Who provided emotional supportfor you to make the transitionfrom high school to college?" While 86 percentof the Black middle-classwomen indicatedthat family providedthat support,70 percentof the white middle class, 64 percentof the Blackworkingclass, andonly 56 percentof the white working class received emotionalsupportfrom family. "Who paid your college tuition and fees?" Beyond emotional support, financial supportis critical to college attendance.There are clear class differences in financial supportfor college. Roughly 90 percentof the middleclass respondentsand only 56 percentand62 percentof the Black andwhite working-class women, respectively, were financially supported by their families. These data also suggest thatworking-classparentswere less able to give emotionalor financialsupportfor college thanthey were to hold out the expectationthattheirdaughtersshould attend. Family expectations for occupation or career. When asked, "Do you recall your fatheror motherstressingthatyou should have an occupationto succeed in life?", racialdifferencesappear.Ninety-fourpercentof all Black respondentssaid yes. In the words of Julie Bird, a Black woman raisedmiddle-classjunior high school teacher: My fatherwouldalwayssay,"Yousee howgoodI'mdoing?Eachgeneration more shoulddomorethanthegeneration before."Heexpectsmetoaccomplish thanhe has. Ann Right, a 36-year-oldBlack attorneywhose fatherwas a janitor,said: Theywantedme to havea betterlife thantheyhad.Forall of us. Andthat's and why theyemphasizededucationandemphasizedworkingrelationships howyouget alongwithpeopleandthatkindof thing. Ruby James, a Black teacherfrom a working-classfamily, said: Theyexpectedme to havea good-paying job and to havea familyandbe married.Go to workeveryday.Buya home.That'saboutit. Be happy.


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In contrast,only 70 percent of the white middle-class and 56 percentof the white worklng-classwomen indicatedthattheir parentsstressed that an occupationwas neededfor success. Nina Pentel,a 26-year-oldwhite medical social worker,expressed a common response:"They said 'You're going to get marriedbutget a degree, you neverknow what's going to happento you.' They were prettylaid back aboutgoals." When the question focuses on a career ratherthan an occupation, the family encouragementis lower and differences were not significant, but similar patternsemerged. We asked respondents,"Who, if anyone, encouraged you to thinkabouta career9"Among Black respondents,60 percentof the middle-class and 56 percentof the working-classwomen answeredthat family encouragedthem. Only 40 percentof the white working-classwomen indicatedthat theirfamily encouragedthem in theirthinkingabouta career, while 52 percentof the white middle-class women did so. MaryAnn Tidwell,a white woman raisedworkingclass in the ruralSouth, is now an environmentalmanager.She has a B.A. and an M.A. in physics. Despite the scarcity of women in her occupation,Mary Ann's experiences getting therewere not unusualfor working-classwomen of this era. In high school, Mary Ann excelled in science and math, yet her parentsheld very traditionalexpectationsfor her: forthem,andlive Theywantedmeto be a teacher,be mamed,havegrandkids nearhome.Theywantedme to attendschoolso thatI couldsupportmyselfin caseI endedupwitha husbandleavingme.Mybrothers wereencouraged to havea big career,be somethingbig! Minewas to havefinancialindependence.They expectedthe same gradesfromus, but they didn'texpect a career-daughter. Dawn Jones, a 33-year-old white attorneyfrom a working-classfamily, describedher parents'feelings: Theyfelt thatIdeallife is somethingthatdoes notencouragethewomanto havea demanding career.It is askingfortrouble. Duringthat professional timeeverythingwas presumed,"you'lldo well in school,you go to college, forwhatmylifehasbeen,really. you'llhavea family."I wastotallyunprepared When working-classwhite women seek to be mobile throughtheir own attainments,they face conflicts. Their parentsencourageeducationalattainment, butwhen young women develop professionalcareergoals, these same parents sometimes become ambivalent. This was the case with Elizabeth Marlow, who is currentlya public interestattorney-a position her parents never intendedherto hold. She describedherparents'traditionalexpectations and their reluctanceto supporther careergoals fully.


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My parents assumed that I would go college and meet some nice man and finish, butnot necessarilyworkafter.I would be a good motherformy children. I don't think that they ever thoughtI would go to law school. Their attitude aboutmy interestin law school was, "Youcan do it if you want to, butwe don't think it is a particularlypracticalthing for a woman to do."

Elizabethis marriedand has threechildren,but she is not the traditional housewife of her parents'dreams. She received more supportoutside the family for her chosen life-style. Although Black families are indeed more likely than white families to encourage their daughtersto preparefor careers, like white families, they frequentlysteerthem towardhighlyvisible traditionallyfemale occupations, such as teacher,nurse,and social worker.Thus many mobile Black women aredirectedtowardthe samegender-segregated occupationsas whitewomen. Forexample, LynnJohnsonwas encouragedby herworking-classmother to get a degree in education,butinstead,she majoredin economics andnever told her motheruntil graduationday. She describedher encounter. Mommasaid,"Bea teacher." That'sall shewantedme to do.Shecametomy fromRegionalCollegeandshegotmydegree,andit saidBachelor graduation ofScienceinEconomics.Mommasaid,"Girl,whatareyougonnateach?They don'tteachEconomics, andyou can'ttypeeither!"I said,"That'srght Momma,I sure can't.""Well,I want to see you get a job with this!"She threw thatdegree back at me. Oh, she was so mad! She has since learnedbetter,but initiallyshe was really hurt,becauseshe thoughtmy only option was to teach.

Marriage. Although working-classfamilies may encouragedaughters to marry,they recognize the need for working-classwomen to contributeto family income or to supportthemselveseconomically.To achieve these aims, manyworking-classgirls areencouragedto pursuean educationas preparation for work in gender-segregatedoccupations.Workin these fields presumably allows women to keep marriage,family, and child rearingas life goals while contributingto the family income and to have "somethingto fall back on" if the marriage does not work out. This interplay among marriage, education,financial need, and class mobility is complex (Joslin 1979). We asked,"Do you recallyourmotheror fatheremphasizingthatmarriage should be your primarylife goal?"While the majorityof all respondentsdid not get the message thatmarriagewas theprimarylife goal, Black andwhite women's parents clearly saw this differently. Virtually no Black parents stressedmarriageas the primarylife goal (6 percentof the workingclass and 4 percentof the middle class), but significantlymore white parentsdid (22 percentof the working class and 18 percentof the middle class).


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Some white women said their families expressed active opposition to marriage,such as Clare Baron, a raised-worklng-classnursing supervisor, who said, "My mother always said, 'Don't get marriedand don't have children!'" Morecommonresponsesrecognizedthe fragilityof marriageandthe need to support oneself. For example, Alice Page, a 31-year-old white raisedmiddle-class librarian,put it this way: I feel like I amreallypartof a generationthatforthefirsttimeis thinking,"I don'twantto haveto dependon somebodyto takecareof mebecausewhatif theysay theyaregoingto takecareof me andthentheyarenotthere?They I feel verymuchthatI'vegot to be ableto die, or theyleaveme orwhatever." supportmyselfandI don'tknowthatsinglewomenin othererashavehadto dealwiththatto thesamedegree. While white working-class women are often raised to preparefor work roles so that they can contributeto family income and, if necessary,support themselves, Black women face a different reality. Unlike white women, Black women are typically socialized to view marriageseparatelyfrom economic security, because it is not expected that marriagewill ever remove them from the labor market.As a result, Black families socialize all their children- girls and boys - for self-sufficiency (Clark 1986; Higginbotham and Cannon 1988). Lou Nelson's response was typical of the Black working-classwomen. She said: I can trulyremember my parentssaying"Iwantyou to go to schoolandget yourdegree,get you a job, thenget mamedif you chooseto."It was always a caseof youbeingin a positionto get marnedif youchooseto marryandnot havingto relyon a manto provideyou withfoodandclothingandthingsof thatsort.Theysaid,"Alwaysbe ableto takecareof yourself." JaniceFreeman,a Black womanraisedworkingclass who is now a college professor, respondedsimilarly,"The main thing that they wanted me to do was to become financiallyindependent.I mean be stable and be able to take care of myself and not be a burdento anybody." In fact, fairly substantialnumbersof each grouphad never marriedby the time of the interview,rangingfrom 20 percentof the white working-classto 34 percent of the Black working-classand white middle-class respondents. Some of the women were pleased with theirsinglehood,like Alice Page, who said: I am singleby choice.Thatis how I see myself.I havepurposelyavoided situationwithmen.I haveenjoyedgoingout gettingintoanykindof romantic


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but never wantedto get serious. If anyonewants to get serious,I quitgoing out with him.

Otherwomen expressed disappointmentand some shock that they were not yet married.Whenaskedaboutherfeeling aboutbeing single, Sally Ford, a 32-year-oldwhite manager,said: That's what I always wanted to do: to be marriedand have children.To me, thatis the ideal.I want a happy,good marriagewith children.I do not like being single at all. It is very, very lonesome. I don't see any advantagesto being single. None!

SENSE OF OBLIGATION Subjective sense of debt to kin and friends. McAdoo (1978) reports that upwardly mobile Black Americans receive more requests to share resourcesfrom theirworking-class kin than do middle-class Black Americans. Many mobile Black Americansfeel a "social debt"because theirfamilies aided them in the mobility process and provided emotional support. Whenwe askedthe white women in the studythe following question:"Generally,do you feel you owe a lot for the help given to you by yourfamily and relatives?"many were perplexed and asked what the question meant. In contrast,boththe working-andmiddle-classBlackwomen tendedto respond immediatelythatthey felt a sense of obligationto family andfriendsin return for the supportthey hadreceived.Black women, fromboth the workingclass and the middleclass, expressedthe strongestsense of debt to family,with 86 percent and 74 percent, respectively, so indicating. White working-class women were least likely to feel thatthey owed family (46 percent),while 68 percentof white middle-classwomen so indicated.Inshort,upwardlymobile Black women were almost twice as likely as upwardlymobile white women to express a sense of debt to family. LindaBrown,an upwardlymobile Blackwoman,gave a typical response, "Yes, they are there when you need them."Similarwere the words of Jean Marsh,"Yes, because they have been supportive.They're dependable.If I need them I can dependupon them." One of the most significantways in which Black working-classfamilies aided their daughtersand left them with a sense of debt related to care for theirchildren.Dawn Marchexpressedit thus: They have been theremore so duringmy adultyearsthana lot of otherfamilies thatI knowabout.My motherkeptallof my childrenuntilthey wereold enough to go to day care. And she not only kept them, she'd give them a bath for me


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during the daytime and feed them before I got home from work. Very,very supportivepeople. So, I really would say I owe them for that.

Carole Washington, an upwardly mobile Black woman occupational therapist,also felt she owed her family. She reported: I know the strugglethatmy parentshave had to get me where I am. I know the energy they no longer have to put into the rest of the family even thoughthey want to put it there and they're willing. I feel it is my responsibilityto give back some of thatenergythey havegiven to me. It's self-directed,not required.

White working-classwomen, in contrast,were unlikely to feel a sense of debt and expressed theirfeelings in similarways. IrmaCox, partowner of a computerbusiness, said, "Iam appreciativeof the values my parentsinstilled in me. But I for the most part feel like I have done it on my own." Carey Mink, a 35-year-old psychiatricsocial worker,said, "No, they pointedme in a directionand they were supportive,but I've done a lot of the work myself." Debra Beck, a judge, responded,"No, I feel that I've gotten most places on my own." And finally, Phyllis Coe, a libraryadministrator,stated: No. Growingup in a family,I don't thinkit's thatkind of a relationship- that's theirjob. I feel thatway with my son. I certainlylove him but I don't want him ever to be in a position to thinkhe owes me.

The sense of balance or imbalance in one's interpersonalrelationships with family and friends can be a source of comfort or stress. Carrlngton (1980, 266) found thatthe sense of debt can contributeto depressionamong Black professionalwomen: Depressed black women express strong needs to nurtureand "take care of' significant others in their lives- spouses and children.They also feel guilty when engaging in self-enhancingactivities,eitherprofessionallyor personally, that do not directly or indirectly include their families. This sense of guilt is particularlyobserved in depressedblack women who are upwardlymobile.

To examine this issue we asked, "In terms of your obligations to your family and relatives,do you feel you've: given more help thanyou received, received more help thanyou've given, or given aboutthe the same as you've received?" Responses vaned by race and class. For all groups except the Black working-classwomen, aboutone-half felt thatthey hadgiven equal to what they had received; there was some sort of balance in family relationships. When perceived imbalanceexisted, it was mostly thatthe women felt they received more than they gave. Again the ratherstrikingexception is Black raised-working-classwomen, 31 percentof whom feel they havegiven more than they have received from family. Some commentsfrom this group illustratethe point.


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Rose Hill, a 40-year-old professor who was raised working class, said: "I feel thatin manyrespectsI'm strongerin termsof emotionaland financial well-being thanmost of my family and I feel an obligationto give it back." JennyWell, a college administrator,recalledan incidentthatwas typical of how she frequentlygave more to her family thanshe received. Forexample,ourauntdied.All the niecesandnephewsweregoing to buy flowers- a sprayfromus.I endeduppayingforit,okay?Andallof themmade a lot moremoneythanI do. AndI felt used.Thathappensa lot of times.We allcomeupwithanidea,buttomakesuretheIdeagoesthrough, Jenny'salways stuckwithit. Mary Chapel, a married35-year-old corporatedirectorwith three children,said: I'vegivenmorethanI received.Becauseit is almostas if I'mthebackboneof thefamilyinmyfather'sabsence.I'mthepersonthatallof themcometo. My sisterinNewYorkcomesto me,mysisterinMemphiscomestome,mymother comesto me,everybody, evenmy friendscometo me.It'sas if I'vemovedin to taketheplacethatmy fathervacatedwhenhe passed. We also asked, "In termsof your obligations to yourfriends,do you feel you've: given more help than you received,received more help that you've given, or given aboutthe same as you've received?"Since friendsarechosen, it is not surprisingthatthe balance of obligationswith friendsis more likely to be equal for all groups. Interestingly,however, Black women are most likely to feel thatthey give more than they receive, even to friends. In additionto being the backboneof herfamily,MaryChapelis also a key person in her friendshipnetwork.She reported: Well,notso muchintermsof givingmoney,butcertainly givingthemmytime. I don'tcarewhatit is, dayornight,if theywantto see meortalkto me,I think AndI don'tturnaroundandaskthemto do thesamefor it is reallyimportant. I don'tneedtogo outside mebecauseIdon'tneedthatkindof externalsupport. of my familyto askforhelp. RELATIONS TO THE COMMUNITY Commitment to community. The mainstream"model of community stresses the rightsof individualsto make decisions in theirown self interest, regardlessof the impacton the largersociety"(Collins 1990,52). This model may explain relations to community of origin for mobile white males but cannot be generalized to other racial and gender groups. In the context of


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well-recognized structuresof racialoppression,America'sracial-ethniccommunitiesdevelop collective survivalstrategiesthatcontrastwith the individualism of the dominantculturebut ensurethe community'ssurvival(Collins 1990; McAdoo 1978; Stack 1974; Valentine1978). McAdoo (1978) argues that Black people have only been able to advance in education and attain higher status and higher paying jobs with the support of the wider Black community, teachersin segregatedschools, extended family networks,and Black mentors already in those positions. This widespreadcommunity involvement enables mobile people of color to confront and challenge racist obstacles in credentialing institutions, and it distinguishes the mobility process in racial-ethniccommunitiesfrom mobility in the dominantculture. For example, Lou Nelson, now a librarian,describedthe supportshe felt in her southernsegregatedinner-cityschool. She said: Therewas a closenessbetweenpeopleandthathada lot to do withneighborhood schools.I went to TubmanHighSchoolwith peoplethatlived in the Tubman area. I think that there was a bond, a bond between parents, the PTA I think that it was just that everybody felt that everybody knew everybody. And thatwas special.

Family and communityinvolvementand supportin the mobility process means that many Black professionalsand managerscontinue to feel linked to theircommunitiesof origin. Lillian King, a high-rankingcity official who was raised working class, discussed her currentcommitment to the Black community.She said: Because I have more opportunities,I've got an obligation to give more back and to set a positive examplefor Blackpeople andespecially for Blackwomen. I think we've got to do a tremendousjob in building self-esteem and giving people the desire to achieve.

JudithMoore is a 34-year-oldsingle parentemployed as a healthinvestigator.She has been able to maintainher connectionwith hercommunity,and that is a source of pride. I'mproudthatI stillhavea senseof whoI amin termsof Blackpeople.That's

very importantto me. No matterhow much educationor professionalstatus I get, I do not want to lose touch with where I've come from. I think that you need to look back and thatkind of pushes you forward.I thinkthe degree and other things can makeyou lose sight of that,especially us Black folks, but I'm glad that I haven't and I try to teach that [commitment]to my son.

For some Black women, their mobility has enabled them to give to an

even broader community. This is the case with Sammi Lewis, a raisedworking-class woman who is a directorof a social service agency. She said,


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"I owe a responsibilityto the entire community,and not to any particular group." There are also questions about the depth of mainstreamindividualism within the white community.Recent scholarshipon mobility experiencesof white youth in the Northeastdemonstratesthatsome sharea commitmentto educationalattainmentbutdo not necessarilywant to takeon all the trappings of the middle class. Steinitz and Solomon (1986) discuss how many of their white respondentswant to become somebody, but "they do not want to become differentkinds of people, nor do they want to separatethemselves from those they now know and love" (p. 30). They value their connections with othersand are people who believe "thatdevelopmentthroughrelationships is the critical role to maturity,[and] who hold that responsibilityto others is necessaryto the realizationof self' (p. 13). In our study as well, the white raised-working-classwomen represented a spectrum.Some discussed primaryresponsibilityto the nuclearfamily,like Sara Marx, a 33-year-old director of counseling. When asked about the similaritiesbetween her life and her parents'lives, Sararemarked: within Wehavea goodcommunication Thereis a definiteloyaltyto partners. and communication thefamily.I thinkmy parentshavemoreof a non-verbal andI havea moreverbalcommunication. Honesty,workethicmy husband we boththinkwe shouldworkhardto get thingsto makeus comfortable. Sally Ford, a 33-year-old single woman raised working class and now employed as a managerfor a manufacturingcompany, was taught to look beyond the family.When reportingsimilaritieswith herparents,Sally noted: "They taughtme a tremendoussense of responsibilityin termsof what you owe to the world and your fellow man and community.We have that in common."Sally's parentswere active in social organizationsandcommunity issues, and she has followed that path. Crossing the color line. Mobility for people of color is complex because in additionto crossingclass lines, mobilityoften meanscrossingracial and culturalones as well. Since the 1960s, people of color have increasingly attended either integrated or predominantlywhite schools. Only mobile white ethnicshave a comparableexperienceof simultaneouslycrossingclass and culturalbarriers,yet even this experienceis qualitativelydifferentfrom that of Black and other people of color. White ethnicity can be practically invisible to white middle-class school peers and co-workers,but people of color are more visible and are subjectedto harshertreatment.Our research indicates that no matterwhen people of color first encounterintegratedor predominantlywhite settings, it is always a shock. The experience of racial


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exclusion cannot prepare people of color to deal with the racism in daily face-to-face encounters with white people. For example, Lynn Johnson was in the first cohort of Black students at Regional College, a small private college in Memphis. The self-confidence and stamina Lynn developed in her supportive segregated high school helped her withstand the racism she faced as the first female and the first Black to graduate in economics at Regional College. Lynn described her treatment: I would come into class and Dr. Simpson (the Economics professor)would alphabeticallycall the roll. When he came to my name, he would just jump over it. He would not ask me any questions,he would not do anything.I stayed In that class. I struggled through.When it was my turn,I'd starttalking. He would say, "Johnson,I wasn't talking to you" [because he never said Miss Johnson]. I'd say, "That'sall right,Dr. Simpson, it was my turn.I figuredyou just overlooked me. I'm just the littlest person in here. Wasn't that the right answer9"He would say, "Yes, that was the rght answer."I drove him mad, I really did. He finally got used to me and startedto help me. In southern cities, where previous interaction between Black and white people followed a rigid code, adjustments were necessary on both sides. It was clear to Lynn Johnson and others that college faculty and students had to adapt to her small Black cohort at Regional College. Wendy Jones attended a formerly predominantly white state university that had just merged with a formerly predominantly Black college. This new institution meant many adjustments for faculty and students. As a workingclass person majoring in engineering, she had a rough transition. She recalled: I hadnevergone to school with white kids. I'd always gone to all Black schools all my life and the Black kids there [at the university]were snooty. Only one friend from high school went there and she flunked out. The courses were harderand all my teacherswere men and white. Most of the kids were white. I was in classes where I'd be the only Black and woman. There were no similaritiesto graspfor. I hadto adjustto being in thatsituation.In abouta year I was comfortable where I could walk up to people in my class and have conversations. For some Black people, their first significant interaction with white people did not come until graduate school. Janice Freeman described her experiences: I went to a Black high school, a Black college and then worked for a Black man who was a formerteacher.Everythingwas comfortableuntil I had to go to State University for graduateschool. I felt very insecure.I was throwninto an environmentthatwas very different-during the 1960s and 1970s therewas so much unrestanyway- so it was extremely difficult for me.


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It was not in graduateschool but on her firstjob as a social workerthat Janicehadto learnto work withwhite people. She said, "AfterI realizedthat I could hangin school, workingat the social work agencyallowed me to learn how to work with white people. I had never done thatbefore and now I do it betterthananybody." Learningto live in a white world was an additionalhurdlefor all Black women in this age cohort. Previousgenerationsof Black people were more likely to be educatedin segregatedcolleges and to work within the confines of the established Black community. They taught in segregated schools, provided dental and medical care to the Black communities,and provided social services and other comforts to membersof their own communities. They also lived in the Blackcommunityandworshipedon Sundaywith many of the people they saw in differentsettings.As the commentsof our respondentsreveal,bothBlack andwhite people hadto adjustto integratedsettings, but it was more stressfulfor the newcomers.

SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS Our majoraim in this researchwas to reopenthe study of the subjective experience of upwardsocial mobility and to begin to incorporaterace and gender into our vision of the process. In this exploratorywork, we hope to raise issues and questions that will cast a new light on taken-for-granted assumptionsaboutthe process and the people who engage in it. The experiences of these women have certainlypainteda differentpicturefrom the one we were left some twentyyears ago. Firstandforemost,these women arenot detached,isolated,or drivensolely by careergoals. Relationshipswith family of origin,partners,children,friends,and the widercommunityloom large in the way they envision and accomplish mobility and the way they sustain themselves as professionaland managerialwomen. Several of our findings suggest ways that race and gender shape the mobility process for baby boom Black and white women. Educationwas stressedas importantin virtuallyall of the families of these women;however, they differedin how it was viewed andhow muchwas desired.The upwardly mobile women, both Black and white, sharedsome obstacles to attainment. More mobile women had parents who never expected them to achieve a college education.They also received less emotional and financial support for college attendancefrom their families than the women in middle-class families received. Black women also faced the uniqueproblemof crossing racialbarrierssimultaneouslywith class barriers.


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Therewere fairly dramaticrace differencesin the messages thatthe Black and white women received from family aboutwhat theirlives shouldbe like as adults. Black women clearly received the message that they needed an occupation to succeed in life and that marriagewas a secondary concern. Many Black women also expresseda sense thattheirmobilitywas connected to an entire racial uplift process, not merely an individualjourney. White upwardlymobile women received less clear messages. Only onehalf of these women said thattheirparentsstressedthe need for anoccupation to succeed, and 20 percentsaid thatmarriagewas stressed as the primarylife goal. The most common message seemed to suggest that an occupationwas necessary, because marriagecould not be counted on to provide economic survival.Having a career,on the otherhand,could even be seen as detrimental to adult happiness. Upwardmobility is a process thatrequiressustainedeffort and emotional and cognitive, as well as financial, support. The legacy of the image of mobility thatwas built on the white male experiencefocuses on credentialing institutions,especially the schools, as theprimaryplace where talentis recognized andsupportis given to ensurethatthe talentedamong the workingclass are mobile. Family and friends are virtuallyinvisible in this portrayalof the mobility process. Although there is a good deal of variation in the roles that family and friendsplay for these women, they are certainlynot invisible in the process. Especially among many of the Black women, there is a sense thatthey owe a great debt to their families for the help they have received. Black upwardly mobile women were also much more likely to feel that they give more than they receive from kin. Once they have achieved professional managerial employment, the sense of debt combines with their greater access to resources to put them in the position of being asked to give andof giving more to both family and friends.Carrington(1980) identifies some potentialmental healthhazardsof such a sense of debtin upwardlymobile Black women's lives. White upwardlymobile women are less likely to feel indebtedto kin and to feel that they have accomplished alone. Yet even among this group, connections to spouses and childrenplayed significantroles in defining how women were mobile, theirgoals, andtheirsense of satisfactionwith theirlife in the middle class. These data are suggestive of a mobility process that is motivated by a desire for personal, but also collective, gain and that is shaped by interpersonal commitments to family, partnersand children, community, and the race. Social mobility involves competition,but also cooperation,community


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support,andpersonalobligations.Furtherresearchis neededto explore fully this new image of mobility and to examine the relevanceof these issues for white male mobilityas well. NOTE 1. This and all the namesused in this articleare pseudonyms.

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Gilkes, Cheryl Townsend. 1983. Going up for the oppressed:The career mobility of Black women communityworkers.Journal of Social Issues 39:115-39. Gilligan, Carol. 1982. In a different voice: Psychological theory and women'sdevelopment. Cambrdge: HarvardUniversity Press. Higglnbotham,Elizabeth,and LynnWeberCannon.1988. Rethinkingmobility:Towardsa race and gender mclusivetheory.ResearchPaperno. 8. Centerfor Researchon Women,Memphis State University. Hout, Michael. 1984. Occupationalmobility of Black men: 1962-1973. AmericanSociological Review 49:308-22. Joslin, Daphne. 1979. Working-classdaughters,middle-class wives: Social identity and selfesteem amongwomen upwardlymobile throughmarage. Ph.D. diss., New YorkUniversity, New York. Kerckhoff, Alan. 1984. The currentstate of social mobility research.Sociological Quarterly 25:139-53. Knottnerus,J. David. 1987. Status attainmentresearchand its image of society. American Sociological Review 52:113-21. LeMasters,E. E. 1954. Social class mobility and family integration.Journal of Marnage and Family Living 16:226-36. McAdoo, Hamette Pipes. 1978. Factorsrelatedto stability m upwardlymobile Black families. Journal of Marriage and the Family 40:761-76. Miller,Jean Baker.1986. Towardsa new psychology of women.2d ed. Boston: Beacon. Oliver, Melvin, and MarkA. Glick. 1982. An analysis of the new orthodoxyon Black mobility. Social Problems 29:511-23. Pomer,Marshall.1986. Labormarketstructure,intragenerationalmobility,and discrimination: Black male advancementout of low payingoccupations,1962-1973. AmericanSociological Review 51:650-59. Poulantzas,Nicos. 1974. Classes in contemporarycapitalism. London:New Left Books. Ryan, Jake, and Charles Sackrey. 1984. Strangers in paradise: Academics from the workmng class. Boston: South End Press. Rosenfeld, Rachel A. 1978. Women's intergenerationaloccupationalmobility.AmericanSociological Review 43:36-46. Sewell, William H., ArchibaldO. Haller, and George W. Ohlendorf.1970. The educationand early occupational attainmentprocess: Replication and revision. Amercan Sociological Review 35:1014-27. Sewell, William H., Robert Hauser,and WendyWolf. 1980. Sex, schooling, and occupational status.AmericanJournal of Sociology 86:551-83. Stack, Carol. 1974. All our kin. New York:Harper& Row. Steinitz, Victora Anne, and Ellen RachelSolomon. 1986. Startingout: Class and communityin the lives of working-classyouth. Philadelphia:Temple UmversityPress. Strauss,Anselm. 1971. The context of social mobility.Chicago:Aldine. Stuckert, Robert P. 1963. Occupational mobility and family relationships.Social Forces 41: 301-7. Trelman, Donald J., and Kermit Terrell. 1975. Sex and the process of status attainment:A comparisonof working women and men.AmericanSociological Review 40:174-200. U.S. Bureauof the Census. 1983. Detailed populationcharacterstics:Tennessee. Census of the Population,1980. Washington,DC: GPO. Valentine,Bettylou. 1978. Hustling and other hard work.New York:Macmillan.


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Vanneman,Reeve, and LynnWeberCannon.1987. TheAmericanperceptionof class. Philadelphia:TempleUniversityPress. Wright,Enc Olin. 1979. Class structureand incomedetermination.New York:AcademicPress.

ElizabethHigginbotham sAssociate Director of the Centerfor Researchon Womenand Associate Professor m Sociology and Social Workat MemphisState University.She is the authorof Too Much to Ask: The Cost of Black FemaleSuccess, a forthcomingbook on African-Americanwomenas well as otherpublicationson womenof color.She works withLynnWeber,analyzingdataon Black and whitewomenprofesstonaland managerial womenfor theNationalInstituteofMentalHealth-fundedproect "SocialMobility,Race, and Women'sMentalHealth." Lynn Weberis the Director of the Centerfor Researchon Womenand a Professorin the Departmentof Sociology and Social Workat MemphtsState University.She is coauthor (withReeve Vanneman)of The Amercan Perceptionof Class (TempleUniversityPress, 1987). In addition to working with Elizabeth Higginbothamon the researchproject "Social Mobility,Race, and Women'sMental Health," she is nvolved in curriculum transformationefforts.


kin_b&w women