Norms: Researcher Annette Lareau (Univ. of Penn.) has found that children of well-off parents are surrounded by “concerted cultivation.” These children have incredible development opportunities mostly offered by adults—soccer, piano lessons, karate, flute, boy and girl scouts…the list goes on. In this highly structured world, parents shuttle kids around for these rich learning experiences. Poorer kids play more informally because parents can’t shuttle them about. The line between kids and adults is more defined in less wealthy homes. But, in
well-off homes, kids learn the language of adults—they get nearly four times as many words pushed at them per hour as poor kids. Both represent “emergent systems,” when two (or more) different things come together to form a third. Thus, cultures get formed by a set of forces coming together to form a system. This cultural system pushes back on and affects people. Wealthier kids group up in an emergent system that programs them toward communicating with adults and complex social systems like attending college, whereas poorer kids get programmed in a less sophisticated way—a culture (emergent system) that does not move them necessarily in that direction. The result: Kids in the bottom poorest quartile of the population have an 8.6% chance of going to college. On the other hand, top quartile kids have a 75% chance to earn a college degree. Changing the culture of a school, a group, or a system can lead to significantly different outcomes.