Kids Involvement and Diversity Study (KIDS)

Organized, out-of-school activities have become an increasingly pervasive, multifaceted, and consequential component of children’s lives, social development, family culture, and future success in the contemporary United States. On average, American children have fifty hours of discretionary time not spent in school or daycare, doing homework, sleeping, or with family. Scholars, policy makers, parents, educators, and youth workers believe that how children spend this discretionary time is crucial in shaping their development and life trajectories. Social and familial inequalities can be leveled or exacerbated in these fifty hours of weekly free time. The Kids Involvement and Diversity Study (KIDS) explores the following questions:

  • How do activities shape the future opportunities of youth?
  • What kinds of activities matter in reproducing disparities?
  • Where are youth activities located within the Twin Cities and its suburbs?
  • How are they organized and delivered?
  • Are there substantial differences in access to, participation in, understandings of, and treatment in out-of-school activities?
  • If so, what is the effect of such differences?

Background

The relationship between youth activities and social inequality has been approached sociologically in recent years under the heading of “concerted cultivation”—the efforts of middle- and upper-class parents to carefully groom their children for specific futures through the structured, out-of-school activities they enroll them in during childhood. According to scholars, middle and upper class parents understand the benefits these activities have for child development and later success. They also have have the material resources and access to such extracurricular programs, thus they enroll their children at higher rates than those from working class and poor families. More intensive and broader activity involvement result in the development of human, social, and cultural capital that contribute to greater achievement in other realms of life, serving as an important mechanism of social class reproduction.

Recent research on specific activity domains such as youth sport suggest very different levels of access to and participation in particular activities depending on program type as well as income, race, ethnicity, and immigrant status. Given the benefits of these activities, differential access will obviously have consequences for families.

Research Methods and Goals

There is also a clear lack of information on how these activities are spatially located in metropolitan areas, as well as how families navigate the selection process, location, and involvement of said activities. As part of a larger, long-term research initiative, KIDS is conducting a metropolitan-wide study to illustrate and explore how these activities are structured and experienced by a diverse array of urban and suburban parents and children in the Twin Cities area. We utilize interviews, focus groups, field surveys, community mapping, and ethnographic observation to better understand how participation in youth activities appears to be structured by and reproductive of existing social inequalities, as well as the barriers, potential benefits, values, and concerns associated with youth activities, which range from competitive sports to academic and creative activities in the Twin Cities and their suburbs.

Publications, Presentations, and Grants

Publications

Hartmann, Douglas and Alex Manning. 2016. “Kids of Color in the American Sporting Landscape: Limited, Concentrated, and Controlled.” Pp. 43-60 in Child’s Play: Sport and Kids’ Worlds, edited by Michael Messner and Micheala Musto. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Nelson, Toben F. 2016. “Sport and the Childhood Obesity Epidemic.” Pp. 82-101 in Child’s Play: Sport and Kids’ Worlds, edited by Michael Messner and Micheala Musto. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Presentations

Billups, Sarah Catherine. 2016. “Courting Equality? An Ethnographic Account of Disparities and Differential Treatment within a Youth Non-Profit Tennis Program.” Society for the Study of Social Problems, Seattle, WA. August.

Manning, Alex. 2016. “The Age of Concerted Cultivation: A Racial Analysis of Parental Repertoires, and Childhood Activities.” American Sociological Association Annual Meeting. Seattle, WA.

Meier, Ann, Hartmann, Benjamin, and Ryan Larson. 2016. “25 Years of Youth Activity Participation: Inequalities by Race, Class, and Gender.” Poster presented at the Sociology Research Institute, University of Minnesota. April.

Peterson, Grace, Switalla, Kayla, Wilson, Hayden, and Elizabeth Sobel. 2016. “Awareness of Social Differences and Experiences of Differential Treatment.” Poster presented at the Sociology Research Institute, University of Minnesota. April.

Larson, Ryan. 2016. “Mapping Youth Activities in the Twin-Cities Metro Area.” Presented at the Sociology Research Institute, University of Minnesota. April.

Hartmann, Douglas. 2016. “Serious Kids’ Stuff: The Changing Landscape of Youth Activities, Diversity, and Social Reproduction in the Twin Cities Metro Area.” Center for the Study of the Individual in Society, Department of Psychology, University of Minnesota. April.

Hartmann, Douglas, August, Amy, and Sarah Catherine Billups. 2016. “A Not-So-Level Playing Field: The Value of Ethnography in Studying Inequality in Children’s Extracurricular Activities.” Midwest Sociological Society, Annual Meetings, Chicago, IL. March.

Manning, Alex, Swartz, Teresa, and Lisa Gulya. 2016. “For Fun or for Futures?: How Parents and Children from Diverse Racial and Class Backgrounds Understand and Talk about Youth Activities.” Midwest Sociological Society, Annual Meetings, Chicago, IL. March.

Swartz, Teresa, Manning, Alex, and Lisa Gulya. 2016. “What Parents and Kids think of Extracurricular Activities: Varying Motivations, Understandings, and Experiences.” Midwest Sociological Society, Annual Meetings, Chicago, IL. March.

Billups, Sarah Catherine. 2016. “What Makes it all Fun and Games?: Ethnography of Inequality in Youth Tennis.” Midwest Sociological Society, Annual Meetings, Chicago, IL. March.

Meier, Ann, Hartmann, Benjamin, and Ryan Larson. 2016. “25 Years of Youth Activity Participation: Inequalities by Race, Class, & Gender?” Midwest Sociological Society, Annual Meetings, Chicago, IL. March.

Hartmann, Douglas, Ann Meier, and Teresa Swartz. 2015. “Not Just Child’s Play: Emerging Findings from a Multi-method Study of Youth Activities, Race, and the Reproduction of Social Inequalities.” Methods and Inequality Workshop, Minnesota Population Center, October.

Hartmann, Douglas. 2015. “Diversity and Inequality in the Athletic and Extracurricular Activities of American Kids: Mapping Access, Understanding Motivations, and Assessing Differential Treatment.” Sustainable Cities and Just Sport Conference, Georgia Institute of Technology, March.

Grants and Funding

Meier, Ann. 2015-2016. Grant-in-Aid, Office of the Vice President for Research at the University of Minnesota. “Out-of-School Activities, Social Inequality, and Youth Development.”

Hartmann, Douglas. 2015-2016. Faculty Interactive Research Program, Center for Urban and Regional Affairs at the University of Minnesota. “Not Just Fun and Games: Mapping Diversity and Inequality in Out-of-School Youth Activities.”