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Making of a Teenage Service ClassPoverty and Mobility in an American City$
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Ranita Ray

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780520292055

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520292055.001.0001

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The Mobility Puzzle and Irreconcilable Choices

The Mobility Puzzle and Irreconcilable Choices

(p.1) 1 The Mobility Puzzle and Irreconcilable Choices
Making of a Teenage Service Class

Ranita Ray

University of California Press

This chapter provides an overview of academic debates around the role of structure, culture, and agency in understanding the reproduction of poverty. It is argued that the recent “cultural turn” in poverty studies continues to construct drugs, gangs, violence, and early parenthood as central narratives in the lives of poor black and brown youth, while it privileges middle-class cultural norms. In doing so, scholars ignore the trajectories of youth who continuously struggle to become upwardly mobile. Families, romantic ties, and institutions of school and work function in paradoxical ways in the lives of marginalized youth—providing support while creating impediments as youth are forced to figure out a complex mobility puzzle while piecing together the scant resources available to them. This chapter also highlights how expansion of higher education and the service industry shapes educational and occupational trajectories of marginalized youth. It concludes with a discussion on issues of fieldwork and methodology.

Keywords:   structure and agency, culture, higher education, service industry, fieldwork, mobility puzzle, paradox

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