Me, saying things

Occupation, Education, and Social Mobility (by Omar Jadallah-Karraa)

posted Jun 1, 2017, 7:13 AM by Daniel Laurison

 

"well I think it's true for everyone. No matter what you do, if you're a plumber or a [something; maybe business consultant], you can put your all into it and make it meaningful and move up.” - Dentist

 

The dentist's claim that one’s current occupation doesn’t affect one's chances of social mobility is incorrect. In the United States, one's current occupation heavily impacts their ability to afford the costs of higher education for themselves and for their children, and attainment of higher education greatly increases one’s chances of achieving upward social mobility. Educational credentials confer advantage on an individual in the labor market, increasing opportunity for social mobility. As Hout puts it, “College graduates find better jobs, earn more money, and suffer less unemployment than high school graduates do. They also live more stable family lives, enjoy better health, and live longer. They commit fewer crimes and participate more in civic life” (Hout, 2012; 1). Specifically, "the earnings gulf between those who graduate from high school and those who graduate from college has nearly doubled over the past thirty years. Graduates of four-year colleges and universities typically now make 80 percent more than graduates of high school alone.” (Goldrick-Rab; 5).             

After 150 years of continuously rising wages in the United States, "between 1979 and 2013, the hourly wages of middle-wage workers (median-wage workers who earned more than half the workforce but less than the other half) were stagnant… or in decline", and "the wages of low-wage workers fared even worse, falling 5 percent from 1979 to 2013" (Economic Policy Institute). As for the past 10 years, the economic recovery after the 2008 collapse of the financial market has achieved pre-recession private sector employment rates; however, “mid- and higher-wage industries absorbed significant job losses during the downturn” and “net job growth remains concentrated in lower-wage industries where employment now exceeds prerecession levels by 1.85 million. Today, there are nearly two million fewer jobs in mid- and higher-wage industries than there were before the recession took hold” (The Low Wage Recovery). Using mean family income instead of mean individual income, Goldrick-Rab points out that, “While in the 1980s and 1990s, growth in college prices was generally matched by growth in family income… since 2003, the mean family income of all but the very wealthiest 5 percent of Americans fell or stagnated” (Goldrick-Rab; 3).

Meanwhile, the cost of public higher education (community college and public 4 year college or university) has starkly increased. Discussing financial aid and the cost of higher education in the United States, Goldrick-Rab says, “And when it comes to the group that this financial aid system was designed to help the most – those families earning an average of $16,000 per year – the net price of college now amounts to a whopping 84 percent of their income” (Goldrick-Rab; 5). Along with the post-2003 decline in family wages ,“since the year 2,000, community college costs are up by 28 percent, and the cost of attendance at public universities is up by 54 percent” (Goldrick-Rab; 2).

The consequences of rising costs and stagnant or declining wage growth has left an increasing number of families unable or unwilling to commit their resources to higher education. In the U.S., while the percentage of 24-65 year olds who have a “tertiary (higher education) attainment” is 42%, “making it one of the most well-educated countries in the world… a number of countries have now surpassed the U.S. in the percentage of younger adults with a tertiary attainment.” (Education at a Glance). Despite widespread belief in the dominant narrative, which tells us that individuals competing on a “level playing field” can make it on account of their own natural intelligence and hard work, empirical studies show a world rife with inequalities of opportunity. Today, as the prospects for upward social mobility for the majority of Americans are looking more and more gloomy, tropes of “rags to riches” and “the American dream” seem all the more anachronistic and out of touch with reality.

 

Bibliography

 

“Education at a Glance: OECD Indicators 2012: UNITED STATES,” n.d.

Goldrick-Rab, Sara. Paying The Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and The Betrayal of The American Dream, n.d.

Hout, Michael. “Social and Economic Returns to College Education in the United States,” April 23, 2012.

“The Low-Wage Recovery: Industry Employment and Wages Four Years into the Recovery.” National Employment Law Project (NELP), n.d.

 

Hard Work is Not Enough (by Josh Medel)

posted Jun 1, 2017, 7:11 AM by Daniel Laurison

            To start off, I do want to state that, just like this dentist, I do value hard work. It is clear that this dentist does place work ethic very highly when it comes to social mobility. And while I do share this sentiment, I do want to push back on the idea that hard work is all someone needs to do to move forward. Unfortunately, there are many issues and barriers that prevents work ethic to being the only variable when it comes to social mobility. For this blog post, I will show examples on how race is a huge factor when it comes to social mobility.

             One of the first readings that I will like to bring up to highlight the effect race has on social mobility is Devah Pager’s The Mark of a Criminal Record. Pager had a research question on whether criminal record and race had any part when it comes to getting a callback from a job. Though for this blog post, I just want to focus on the race aspect so we don’t make things too complicated.

             Pager had four male auditors (two black and two white) that would apply at the same entry-level positions. When they were applying for these jobs, they all had the same objective characteristics (like work experience and educational attainment). This means that the only thing that would have been different is race.

             I would suggest to look at Figure 6 to see the main results of this study. In this graph, it is clear that race has a huge part when it comes to getting a callback from a job. Ignoring the criminal record aspect, the black auditors were half as likely to get a callback than their white counterparts. While only one study, I feel this illuminates that race has a huge part when it comes to getting hired. No matter how hard you work.

             Next, I want share an article written by Laura Shin titled The Racial Wealth Gap: Why A Typical White Household Has 16 Times The Wealth Of A Black One. Both the title and the the first figure shows how there does exist a huge racial wealth gap that prevents social mobility and other opportunities. The author goes on to make a point that the lack of economic security in both a Black and Latino household prevents investment in the younger members of the households.

             Another similar article I want to share is Oliver Shapiro's Black Wealth/White Wealth: A New Perspective on Racial Inequality. For this study, Shapiro wanted to look at the difference in income and social mobility between white and black households. Table 4.4 illuminates the vast contrast when it comes to income level between white and black households. Looking at the difference between income, I feel it is safe to say that there is a pattern of racial inequality that exists in society. And while not mentioned on this table, Shapiro also wrote that “For every dollar earned by white households, black households earn sixty two cents.”

With this said, I do want to ask our dentist friend to think on the importance race has when it comes to social mobility in the U.S.

Dentist Retort (by Clarissa Phillips)

posted Jun 1, 2017, 7:08 AM by Daniel Laurison


As a society founded on the principals of democracy and freedom, we place a lot of value on the choices one makes and thus attribute their success, or lack thereof, to their innate abilities or intelligence. It seems logical that the people who perform the best would achieve the most and thus we justify those with more as better than those with less. However, when we account for the different social and economic environments we all inhabit, this argument collapses as everyone's initial position is different making it impossible to compare one person’s experience to another’s. These inequalities are present throughout the entirety of our existences, even going so far as to infiltrate our education system. A system tasked with bestowing our children with the knowledge necessary to “make something of themselves.”

Not all schools are the same. As noted in articles here and here Schools in areas inhabited by a majority of low income families have less resources than those in wealthy districts. As a result, they are prone to absurdly large class sizes or less experienced teachers, making it hard for students to focus or gain the individualized attention they need. A family’s individual financial restraints can also hinder a student’s ability to participate in extracurricular activities that are integral to gaining beneficial social connections and information for advancement (e.g. available scholarships, honors programs or classes, application deadlines). In comparison, students whose family’s do not suffer from extreme financial constraints are able to use their economic resources to give them a leg up in a multitude of different ways. As pointed out in this article by Michael Godsey, students who attend private schools are not the only one’s who are educationally advantaged, public school students who have outside tutors or are enrolled in outside honors classes or college courses are as well. Similarly, as noted in Lareau’s Unequal Childhoods, children of college educated parent’s are even more advantaged as their parents are more familiar with both the lower and higher education systems and thus can fight for them to be put in harder classes or help them complete their college applications. This ultimately makes some students incredibly disadvantaged in comparison to others whose families who have more resources.

The inequalities do not stop in grade school, however, as lower income students face many disadvantages throughout college. Somewhat shockingly, it is noted that lower income students are disadvantaged by the way they approach the college experience as a whole. While we condition our youth to think that focusing on their studies is the best way to secure a successful job post grad, a huge part of obtaining an elite position is dependent on the types of connections you have. Lower income students tend to focus on their assignments or have to work part time to cover debts, thus skipping parties and other rambunctious social gatherings and in doing so miss out on the opportunity to become good friends with a well connected frat brother or business major whose father is managing partner at a top law firm.

Although it is possible for someone to climb up the social ladder, the difficulty of which one is able to do so varies tremendously on the circumstances they find themselves in. As a result, a person’s social position is not simply a product of their ability because so much of their experience is influenced by environmental circumstances. The flaws in our education system are just one of many phenomenon promoting reproductive class inequalities in our society. These issues as well as others related to the way in which we function as a society heavily disadvantage the poor and advantage the wealthy.

 

Works Cited

Armstrong, Elizabeth A., and Laura T. Hamilton. Paying for the Party. Harvard University Press, 2013. JSTOR. Web. 2 May 2017.

Lareau, Annette. Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life, 2nd Edition with an Update a Decade Later. 2 edition. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011. Print.

Rivera, Lauren A. Pedigree: How Elite Students Get Elite Jobs. Revised ed. edition. Princeton Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2016. Print.

Limits to Social Mobility (by Anonymous Junior)

posted Jun 1, 2017, 7:05 AM by Daniel Laurison

The Dentist: you know, I've heard it said work is for poor people. The rest of us have careers.

me: um. well, I do like my work a lot, that's true enough for me. 

The Dentist: well I think it's true for everyone. No matter what you do, if you're a plumber or a [something; maybe business consultant], you can put your all into it and make it meaningful and move up. 

            This is a simplification of how mobility works in the United States.  The dentist is ignoring several crucial factors, including those that prevent people from moving up the social ladder.  In the United States many people have unequal opportunities.  For example, many struggle in their day to day life to simply find stable housing, as seen in Matthew Desmond’s Evicted.  This, therefore, prevents one from putting one’s all into it. One is greatly taxed with the simple fact of finding housing, as was exemplified by the single mother that had to make about 90 calls in order to find a possibility for housing.  With such a psychological and time-consuming burden, one is unable to properly try to find a job, assuming there is a “step up” in the social ladder from being unemployed to employed.  Many people do not have to do this, and therefore are freer to use their time and energy.

            Another issue many do not have to worry about is having been incarcerated.  Being jailed leads to slower wage growth than non-jailed people.  There are three theories to why this is; one is the stigma that being incarcerated connotes.  When one is considered to have committed a crime and put in jail, they are regarded as “bad”, regardless of whether or not one committed it.  This carries over to the employer, which is less likely to hire an ex-convict.  Another reason for the slower wage growth is that incarceration is detrimental to one’s employable skills, as one is unable to practice them.  Lastly, social networks are also undermined by time and lack of contact; this is brought upon, as well, by being in jail.  Thus having previously been in jail greatly undermines one’s ability to find a job, and thus climb up the social ladder.

            In addition, the dentist is completely ignoring changing socio-economic environments.  Growing up and applying to the labor force during the Great Depression is entirely different than doing so during the post-war boom –between the 50’s and 70’s—, or even than today.  This is properly described through an intergenerational example in Inequality by Design; on pages 208 through 209, the authors describe how the careers of three different generations of males –the Smiths— varied greatly based off of the different social contexts during which they lived in.

            One can also extrapolate this concept to different geographical locations.  As the authors of Inequality by Design state on page 207, social structure is crucial to one’s development.  Thus, just like if one grows up during a wealthier time period for a whole country, if one attends an “ordered and affluent” school, one is more likely to learn than if one attends an impoverished one.  Thus, this environmental effects can greatly influence one’s success in climbing the social ladder (via getting better grades, attending a more prestigious institution and getting a job). Hence, there are multiple factors in society that help one progress, and everyone has different access to these factors.  Therefore, not everyone can move up the social ladder.

Unawareness of Privilege - by Anonymous Junior

posted Jun 1, 2017, 7:03 AM by Daniel Laurison

The Dentist, some more: you know I worked hard, I didn't have all the advantages, I had to start working at 14, my dad made me, I had to pay my way through college, so I made it on my own.
me: so, what does your dad do?
The Dentist: he's a dentist. Here.
me: aha. Well, bye.

            The dentist, in this case, seems to be unaware of his privilege.  This seems to be in accordance to the general narrative that people with privilege are less aware of its existence than people without it.  This is exemplified in Annette Lareau’s Unequal Childhoods, as an upper-middle class child states that he got to where he is in life by working very hard.  At this point he is in college, recruited by the basketball team.  He is unaware of all of his parents’ help: how they signed him up to extracurricular activities, including basketball, how they sent him to a high-quality school, and so on.  This is just like the dentist; both over attribute their successes to themselves instead of recognizing the privilege of having been raised in an upper-middle class environment (of course, I can only assume that the dentist was, seeing as how his father is a dentist).

            Generally, intergenerational mobility in the United States is inelastic.  People born in a social class will probably end up in the same one.  This is greatly because of the environment where people are raised in.  The environment, including one’s parents, generally provide one with cultural capital –such as skills or sets of behaviors— that lead to a reproduction of one’s social class.  This is elucidated in Unequal Childhoods through two different processes: concerted cultivation and the accomplishment of natural growth.  These are each differing parenting methods that are generally used by different social classes.  Higher classes tend to rely on concerted cultivation, where they generally teach their children how to navigate institutions and authority figures, whereas lower classes tend to have their kids undergo the natural growth route, where they learn skills such as independence and self-organization.  Here, however, the higher class children obtain an advantage that can greatly benefit them in a way that is generally taken for granted: more institutional support.  This can be seen through increased teacher help, more personalized educational attention and even through a better understanding of how to get ahead in institutions.  These are advantages that higher class children tend to have that are taken for granted.

            Another way through which parents help their children are via social networks.  These generally help with information, such as for universities.  This is seen in Unequal Childhoods as a mother is able to teach her son about college information that she learned through her friends.  Social networks are also important for securing jobs.  This is seen in the book Social Class, edited by Lareau and Conley.  In a chapter, Conley provides George W. Bush as an example for how his social networks helped him become president.  As his father was the president, he was able to understand what it meant to hold that position, something that for many is hard to even imagine.  He was also able to learn about the procedures and ways in which one must prepare to become the president, and how to navigate the relevant gatekeeping institutions.  This is the same in many jobs, as references can help one get interviews in elite private service firms, according to the book Pedigree.  Thus, the dentist’s father probably also had a role, directly or indirectly, in helping him work where he works.

The Education System is not a Pure Meritocracy - Evan Baker

posted Jun 1, 2017, 7:02 AM by Daniel Laurison

For some, the idea that the American school system is a meritocracy that sorts out people into their various occupations in a way that is more or less based on their intelligence, might seem very common sense. The perception of the school system as the fabled “Great Equalizer” is almost as prevalent today as it was in 1848 when Horace Mann first coined the term. A excellent example of this attitude than Professor Laurison’s dentist’s assertion that he knows: “a lot of people who are teachers, and the smart kids, they can pick them out, and make sure they're OK. I mean maybe if they've got behavior problems or something, but then, that's the parents' fault”. Unfortunately for Professor Laurison’s dentist, income distribution in society does occur by way of teachers picking out “the smart kids” and eventually giving them better jobs. The empiric reality in the United States is that how and which students are “picked out” as “successful” is dependent to such an large degree on those students’ accumulated social and cultural capital as to fundamentally contradict any claims of its pure meritocratic character.

As first formulated by Pierre Bourdieu in the 1970’s and 80’s, the differences between people in taste, manners, cultural knowledge, and education, known as “cultural capital”, and the differences in the types of and amount of social networks people have access to, known as “social capital”, are not just personal characteristics. The various qualities that make up a person’s social and cultural capital function as another type of assets, just like money or financial capital do. In Bourdieu's formulation people use their social and cultural capital, like for example an in-depth knowledge of how to schmooze at high-class social events or a history of prestige in extracurriculars, as a way to gain access to or reproduce their status and position among the upper class of society.

How the American educational separates students out into high achieving/low achieving students and then later onto different tertiary educational tracks and career paths is organized in a way so as to favor students with high social and cultural capital and marginalize those without these resources, regardless of their intelligence. This reality was unmistakably illustrated by Annette Lareau's research and field work in her book Unequal Childhoods: Race, Class, and Family Life. In the book Lareau studies the development of eighty-eight Black and White children of poor, working class, and middle class backgrounds. Through a study of their lives and development, Lareau concludes that middle class families have a different style of child rearing than that of working class and poor families which puts their children at great advantage in US school system. The middle class childhood development strategy of “concerted cultivation”, in contrast to the working class and poor strategy of “natural growth”, puts a very large emphasis on the expansion of a child’s extracurricular portfolio as well as accelerated growth of their social and academic skills through active parental intervention. This difference in parental technique translates into greater higher academic success and later better job prospects for middle and upper class children (Lareau).

These middle and upper class children are again favored in their job prospects by the fact that elite law, business consulting, and financial firms utilize the social and cultural capital accrued during childhood/adolescent “concerted cultivation” in decisions on who to hire. Lauren Rivera demonstrates this in her comprehensive anthropological work, Pedigree, in which she studies the interview and selection process for job candidates in an elite firms. Rivera finds that interviewers put a greater priority on whether candidates have the right types of social and cultural capital to fit into the firm’s “culture”, like having extensive squash playing experience, rather than whether they are the most technically skilled or intelligent candidate.

As shown in both Pedigree and Unequal Childhoods there are many advantages given to upper and middle class children based on social and cultural factors rather than natural intelligence or aptitude. This fundamental reality refutes the foundations of any empirical basis Professor Laurison’s dentist’s opinion, that people are where they are in society because teachers know how to “pick out” the smart kids, could be founded on.

Class & Race in US Politics (by 2nd Anon 1st-year student)

posted Jun 1, 2017, 7:01 AM by Daniel Laurison

            Bernie Sanders ran for president on a platform of free higher education and higher wages—excellent issues to champion and extremely important for the future of the left in the US. However, when faced with criticism that he was not addressing the specific issues of people of color (POC) and that his progressive platform did not openly critique white supremacy, his response was, rather than being accountable for this failure, to point out his support for Martin Luther King Jr. and to assert, as Adolf Reed does in the article “Bernie Sanders and the New Class Politics,” that “that black, or other nonwhite, Americans indeed would…benefit disproportionately from implementation of those items [increased minimum wage, national healthcare, free public education, etc.] of Sanders’s platform.” Critical of liberal identity politics that deemphasize class, leftist Sanders supporters often engage in this sort of class reductionism when class and race in the United States are inextricable and must be treated as such.

            However, class in the US has always had a race issue, and Sanders’ attempts to unify the races under a platform of slightly better pay and education which remains largely inaccessible to POC because of systematic racism are insufficient, and the history of race in the US shows it. Ta-Nehisi Coates, who accused Sanders of reinforcing white supremacy, points out that, “[t]he income gap between black and white households is roughly the same today as it was in 1970… [a study] found that 4 percent of whites and 62 percent of blacks across America had been raised in poor neighborhoods. A generation later, the same study showed, virtually nothing had changed.White supremacy, caused by systematic disenfranchisement, by white men literally stealing from the hands of black children, is not fixable by broader redistributive policies; policies alone cannot change that every facet of economic and cultural life is stacked against POC.

            The Brown article explores how welfare state policies have been weaponized against POC as well. Policies like what Sanders presents have been tried before, only to be unevenly applied to ensure that white Americans can achieve mobility while denying black and to a lesser degree Hispanic Americans access to these resources. It is not liberal identity politics to point out the legacy of racial discrimination not just from exploitative real estate agents and racist employers but also from agents of the state.

            The unwillingness of white workers of course troubles the feel-good message of racial unity to unite with brown and black workers. Chronicled in The Wages of Whiteness, every time language could have been used to unify workers across racial lines, white workers reinvented the terms to further distance themselves from workers of color and to devalue their labor. Sanders’ message is certainly class reductionist and its failure to address the plight of POC in the US does not serve to unite the races but to further disenfranchise POC in their unique fight against racism and white supremacy. There can be no peace without justice, and Sanders and his followers must recognize that before they begin to talk about post-racialism.  

https://www.jacobinmag.com/2016/08/bernie-sanders-black-voters-adolph-reed-trump-hillary

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0003122413476712/

https://www.versobooks.com/books/255-the-wages-of-whiteness

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/06/the-case-for-reparations/361631/

Barriers to Mobility Are Empirical Realities - by Evan Baker

posted Jun 1, 2017, 6:58 AM by Daniel Laurison


The myth that “anyone can do whatever they want to do” in the United States, as stated by Professor Laurison’s dentist, does not stand up to the empirical realities of American society and the American economy. While certainly there is social and class mobility present in US society, this is hardly a universal rule. Profound barriers and obstacles exist in this country that limit the choices and paths people can take in life. And these barriers and obstacles are not just attitudes. Various socioeconomic structures in the United States function in a way that limits people’s life choices and produces a stratified society.

First of all, the concept the America is an exceptionally mobile society in comparison to other nations is not an accurate assertion. In fact, according to the paper “Cross-Country Rankings in Intergenerational Mobility”, in terms of income mobility, of the twelve countries ranked which include the US, Great Britain, Brazil, Australia, Canada, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, France, Italy, and Finland, the United States ranked second to last and only had more registered income elasticity than Brazil. A society in which people can “do whatever they want” and get whatever jobs or positions they want to get would certainly rank much higher among a list of fellow developed nations in income mobility and definitely shouldn't be second to last.  

Beyond income mobility, profound inequalities exist in our society that cannot just be chalked up to millions of people not making the right decisions. For example the authors of the book Inequality by Design show that even if all adults had the same IQ scores, roughly 90% to 95% of the income inequality currently present in society would still exist. Again, one might think that if mobility in society was based on willpower, then IQ would have a greater effect on which jobs people got and if this is not the case, then there must be other factors at play in the creation of social stratification. Furthermore the authors point out that while welfare programs do exist for many low income families, middle class and upper class families are actually more heavily subsidized by the federal government through benefits given to businesses, homeowners, parents with children in college, and other tax and policy choices that give a lot of federal money to families that already wealthy. What this means is that materially, some families which need money in order to achieve higher standards of living to do not receive money to fulfill that capacity while those already well off receive subsidies to continue living their lifestyles. Inequality by Design lays bare these and other factors which materially enable some to live good lives and prevent other from reaching those lifestyles.  

For many people of color in this country, there were also legal barriers in place so as to physically and materially prevent them from doing “whatever they want to do”. As laid out by the work of Loic Wacquant, Ta-Nehisi Coates and countless others, African Americans and other non-white groups faced and continue to face legal discrimination in this country that drastically limit their choices in life. In the Jim Crow South, African Americans were robbed of the ballot, kept in intricate systems of debt peonage, and arrested en masse under laws designed to create ready supplies of cheap incarcerated labor. In the North and in much of the country to this day, African Americans had the capacity to get cheap mortgages, good loans, and other financial services taken away from them, first by a system of legalized “red-lining” which legally made Black neighborhoods financially untrustworthy, and now by a system of  informal discrimination by which banks and financial officers continue to prevent many communities of color form having access to the services necessary for them to live their lives and be upwardly mobile. These varied system functioned as impediments to a myriad of life choices that should have otherwise been available to African Americans and people of color in the United States.

Despite what the dentist might think, the choices available to people and the trajectories of their lives are not just determined by their will and want to do fulfill their dreams and needs. On the contrary, a vast series of obstacles and obstruction exist in our society that limit the choices available to people and often time force them into jobs and situations they might otherwise have avoided or not been in.

Parents' Class --> Work Opportunities (2nd Anon 1st-year student)

posted Jun 1, 2017, 6:56 AM by Daniel Laurison

            Individuals who end up rich champion the narrative that it was their hard work that landed them in their position. After all, “[they] worked hard, [they] didn’t have all the advantages…had to pay [their] way through college;” but working hard usually isn’t enough. Professor Laurison’s dentist, whose father is also a dentist at the firm he works at, argues that his own hard work alone resulted in his prestigious and well-paying job. However, data (Chetty et al) shows that most people do end up in the class they were born in, and data* shows that people with careers in medicine and law are most likely to have children also in medicine or law. Clearly, parents’ occupation is significant in determining someone’s ultimate position.  

            Parents’ position is super influential in passing along cultural capital, or soft skills that help one in all sorts of ways. Annette Lareau explains in her book Unequal Childhoods that middle class parents teach their children skills on how to navigate institutions that could give them future success by teaching them vocabulary they will need to negotiate a raise or apply for college grants. Middle class parents have leisure time to take them to sports games, debate team, and other extracurricular activities that teach not just life skills that will help them in the job market in the future, but build relationships with middle class peers that could be helpful in their future for upward mobility. Working class parents, Lareau argues, teach their children valuable skills, but often the skills that they do teach are “out of synch with the standards of institutions” (Kindle Locations 250). Working class children are less likely to be enrolled in expensive organized activities, and their parents are less likely to be dentists, lawyers, or bankers that could teach them the skills to navigate those worlds.

            One way this manifests concretely is in the job interviewing process. Lauren Rivera’s book Pedigree shows that, when employers at jobs such as consulting, banking, and law—the kinds of jobs that could pay off student debt promptly—hire new applicants, they look for the kinds of skills that one would have learned in elite environments. When they hire from places like elite college campuses, they know all the students are intelligent because they were accepted to and graduated from an elite school. So, they hire people that have had similar experiences to them, and who they want to spend time with. Applicants are therefore evaluated not on their hard work, but rather on their connections and mutual friends, the leisure activities they grew up doing (family vacations in Europe or lacrosse camp), and the soft skills of charm and grace that they would have picked up in middle class family environments. These presuppose privilege, not hard work, so while one does have to work hard to get a job that pays well, hard work is insufficient.

*this comes from the slides in class. I took notes on this but I don’t know the source

Hard Work Doesn't Guarantee Success (by 2nd Anon 1st-year student)

posted Jun 1, 2017, 6:52 AM by Daniel Laurison

My sociology professor’s dentist said to him, “No matter what you do, if you're a plumber or a [something; maybe business

consultant], you can put your all into it and make it meaningful and move up.” Political and moral questions about whether this should be the case aside momentarily, the fact is that in today’s USA, working hard does not translate to the ability to move up—it is in fact extremely difficult to achieve mobility by whatever measure used. The following graph comes from research on economic mobility, and measures how many people in the top 20% come from different economic backgrounds broken into fifths of the general US population. If moving up was solely a product of hard work, one would expect that each quintile would be made up evenly of people across classes, or, using the image of the graph, that the top 20% of income earners in each year would have come from each quintile of American earners at an even amount of 20%. If hard work were the only determining qualification for mobility, income groups should have an even makeup of income group origin.  

Contrary to this dentist’s claim, the opportunities for mobility within certain career paths are extremely limited for some due to the value that societies and markets place on some jobs and not others. The Bureau of Labor statistics publishes incomes for different careers by percentile, so for example 10th percentile wages mean that 10% of people earn less than that amount for that job whereas 90% earn more per year. The results show that some paths such as management occupations, have a 10th percentile wage no lower than $45,000 a year, including some jobs, like Architectural and engineering management, where 10% of workers earn less than $83,580. Conversely, in other fields, even being in the top percentile of earners in that field does not guarantee a high income. Fast food cooks, for example, have a 90th percentile wage of $25,290, so even fast food cooks who “put their all into it and make it meaningful,” and make it to the top 10% earners of fast food cooks, do not end up moving up in the income ladder.

Fischer et al identify specific government policies and illustrate how these ensure that hard work alone will not catapult one to a top earning group starting from the bottom quintile. Using the example of the footrace, someone with all the privileges of wealth, education, a good career path and more opportunities will have to exert much less to finish the race than someone who has student debt or never got a degree and whose career prospects look much more like plumbing than finance. Someone with much more disadvantages can work twice as hard to get half as far, and reproduction and wage data confirm that this is the reality of the US today.

http://www.nber.org/papers/w19843

https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_stru.htm#19-0000

https://moodle.swarthmore.edu/pluginfile.php/346237/mod_resource/content/0/Fischer%20et%20al%20Inequality%20By%20Design.pdf

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