A Series of Events: Social Class

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By Anonymous

We are frequently taught in America, that life is what you make it. This is constantly reflected through images in the news and entertainment on television in general. Furthermore we are taught to believe that early conditions have a minimal effect on our lives, but facts say otherwise. The truth of the matter is that since a small percentage of the rich control the media, they control this notion by presenting class stereotypes. Therefore, life is not so much an individual choice as it is a quality of live highly influenced by social stratification. More specifically, since social class is seen mainly in terms of income, most people believe that social class is a choice, and that mobility to a higher class is solely up to the individual. If only it were up to the individual, but it is not.

If it were up to me, I would want to be in a much more stable economic position. Unfortunately, since I grew up in a lower class family, my early conditions work against me. Since I grew up poor, that means that my social status affected my education, physical environment, quality of food, access to health care, as well as life expectations. The home that I grew up in located in gang territory. On top of that, it was near an industrial plant where fumes were in view from a block away. To say the least, the quality of food I grew up with was not what most would exactly consider gourmet dining. Since healthier food was more expensive, my mom resorted to dinners consisting of sloppy joes, hot dogs, or some variety of hamburger helper; fresh produce was rare. I have the constant memory of only being able to go to the doctor when it was absolutely necessary, because the quality of health insurance my mom had for us kids was so poor. Not to mention that whenever we did desperately need to go to the doctors, my mother would be left paying the bill over the next few months at least. Money was always tight, every little luxury was cut out to be able to afford basic necessities. Poor quality air and food, coupled with lower class education has most likely had some affect on my development as well as impairing my academic performance. In addition, the expectations that were set for me growing up were generally low considering that my mother was a high school drop out, along with my sister, and my father only completed high school himself. By seeing how much early conditions may affect the proceeding occurrences in life, it is hard to agree with such notions claiming that early conditions have minimal effects on future life quality and social status.

The sociological way of looking at class is a combination of power, wealth and prestige, where wealth, according to The Dialect of Social Inequality by S. Rowan Wolf “…includes physical property, valuable objects, and investments.” (Page 61) Moreover, wealth should be looked at as including both income and net wealth according to Dinesh D’Souza. If I were to place myself into a social class by using the subjective approach, I would easily place myself as belonging to the lower class. When it comes to wealth, I am negative money, due to the fact that I am living off of school funds, which is minimal to begin with. I own no property, I own no valuable objects, and since I have no money to account for, it is no surprise that I have no investments in my name. This also means that if I were to apply the objective approach to group myself into a social class, I would still be considered apart of the lower class, hands down. I easily make less that half of the population. One of the most frustrating aspects about my social class status is that even with education, I have not been educated to know how to make something out of what education I do acquire.

This is a particularly frustrating issue in my life. As a result of the lower class I grew up in I have always been taught to search for a job. I have absolutely no clue how to land a teaching position that I hope to obtain once I finish college. Furthermore, since there is stress on preparing for a position that is in demand in the current economy, I have to select a career path that accommodates the current economic strain, or else my education really will make me a dime a dozen. This means that even if I wanted to choose a different subject to teach, it would be without purpose, because the only teaching jobs that appear to be in demand are mainly math and science teachers. Fortunately, I enjoy math and science, but I am digressing. Since I grew up in a lower class family that had relatively low expectations of me, I have no knowledge on how to make my education work for me once I am out of school. More importantly, since I am the first to go to college, I do not even know how to acquire the education needed for the career I am looking to obtain. This makes the issue even more complex and glaring of how much early conditions effect adult life, because not only do I not know how to acquire a teaching position once I am out of school, but I do not know how to exactly become a teacher to be qualified for the teaching position in question. This does make my situation difficult indeed. So all that I am doing is taking each obstacle as it comes and learning what I can along the way. The only thing that is in favor for me is that since I am from and currently apart of the lower quintile, or social class, I have a higher chance of income mobility.

What I find to be interesting about the idea that an individual chooses what social class he or she belongs in is that it is a subtle boundary maintenance mechanism. It will be a constant struggle for me to be able to move up the ladder to a higher status social class. What I think the rich do not realize with their invisible privilege is that it is significantly harder than it seems to acquire the education needed to earn a position that offers a higher level of income. I must continue education amongst starting a family and needing to work a part-time job to make ends meet. It is a daily struggle. So to say that it is up to an individual where they are in the social class ladder and that early conditions have minimal effect are sayings that are offensive in my opinion. As though the rich are throwing their snobbery in my face, making the poor a statistic and then blaming it on the individual. What rubbish when social class status is really about the society.

Bottom-line is that social class is not something solely based on the individual, but rather the society. In addition, early childhood conditions do have a profound affect on future outcomes. The beginning quality of life sets the stage for the future life conditions to come. That is not to say that individuals do not play a part, but an individual’s part in determining his or her social class is mainly influenced by the society. Personally, growing up with poor education, physical environment, quality of food, and access to health care, as well as low life expectations has made transitioning out of the lower class quintile profoundly that much more difficult than the rich could imagine. Which is most likely the reason why a majority of people tend to stay in the social class he or she was born into, because trying to move across the border that is social class possibly seems as though it is not worth it. It is way easier to slide down social class borders, much more difficult to climb up one. Social class mobility is a game of chutes and ladders. It seemingly takes forever to reach the top when you start from the bottom, but so, so easy to slip down the social class from the top if you make the wrong step in society.
Wolf, Rowan. Dialectic of Social Inequality.

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