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Family Wealth and the Purchase of a First Home

Annette Lareau, Sociology

The study aims to enrich our studies of inequality by examining the informal transfer of financial resources and information about asset accumulation. The research proposal will take a multi-method approach. In keeping with a rich tradition of “qualitative research” in sociology and anthropology, the qualitative part of the study is designed to probe the meaning and interpretation of key events in their lives rather than being restricted to a study of the events themselves.  The RO3 will study a total of 48 white and African American families from upper-class, middle-class and working-class backgrounds (i.e., 8 white upper-class, 8 white upper-middle-class, 18 white working-class, 8 African-American upper-class, 8 African American upper-middle-class, and 8 African-American working-class families). In the study in-depth interviews with one parent will be done. For one family in each “cell” the investigator will also interview grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins in the family system as well as (where appropriate) friends who have played a role in providing information or economic resources . In addition to interviewing family members about their perceptions of these events, they will seek to gain copies of their financial records (e.g., copies of all the material they submitted for the loan, for college financial forms, and other financial records). Some families use the software program “Quicken.”  Investigators will also ask for copies of these computer programs.  The proposed study will also supplement the case studies with a portrait of asset transfers using a nationally representative sample. It will also examine class and race differences in credit literacy.