Inequality and the social and cultural capital of childhood and youth

Montgomery, Heather (2018). Inequality and the social and cultural capital of childhood and youth. In: Montgomery, Heather and Robb, Martin eds. Children and young people’s worlds. Bristol: Policy Press, pp. 73–88.


Social and cultural capital are concepts first discussed by French sociologist and anthropologist Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002) and, while Bourdieu himself made limited reference to children and childhood, his ideas about various types of capital have become highly influential within Childhood and Youth Studies (CYS), especially as a means of explaining and understanding persistent economic and social inequalities (Alanen et al, 2015). There has, of course, always been extensive work on child poverty and the impacts that a lack of economic capital have on children and young people’s lives, which this chapter will look at briefly. However the main focus of the chapter will be on the contribution of Bourdieu’s concepts of social and cultural capital – the less tangible and obvious forms of ‘capital’ – to understandings of children’s lives and in particular their experiences of various forms of inequalities. It will interrogate how children experience exclusion and deprivation and why, despite multiple attempts made by educators and governments, these factors appear to reproduce themselves across generations so that patterns of inequality are replicated across time.

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