The Job Market is Not Equal Opportunity (by Anonymous first-year student)

posted Jun 1, 2017, 6:45 AM by Daniel Laurison

A common claim regarding class is that “people make their own decisions, anyone can do what they want to do.” Essentially, it is argued, class does not matter. It has no bearing on one’s future opportunities. This is a vast, if common, claim, but I shall refute it through the strong effect of class on education, career opportunities, and housing inequality.

 The ability to find well-paying employment is heavily controlled by one’s class background. As Lauren A. Rivera details in Pedigree: How Elite Students get Elite Jobs, class is central to one’s ability get attain elite employment. Rivera traces the recruitment process for high-paying jobs that actively seek out students graduating from college. Students attending elite colleges and universities are much more likely to be selected as recruitment sites from major firms. In fact, for applications received from students attending schools not considered ‘elite’, many were not even read (Rivera 35). Of course, elite colleges and universities are heavily saturated with wealthy students. A recent study by the New York Times found that some elite colleges had more students from the top 1% than the bottom 60%. General trends confirm that wealthier students are much more likely to attend top schools than working or middle class students—and this means increased likelihood of scoring a top job through a recruitment effort. Rivera also discusses class interactions at play in interview settings. Among the most important qualities interviewers look for, Rivera found, was cohesion with the work culture. This notion is very rooted in class. ‘Work culture’ is often deeply connected to the performance of wealth and luxury; subjects describe co-workers comparing clothing brands and four-figure dinners. This performance of wealth extends to the interview itself. An interviewee’s interests and tastes (ex. golf among rich students), which Bourdieu demonstrates are caused by our class position, and extracurricular activities, which are often sparse for students working through college, reflect on this innocuous ‘work culture.’ Getting an elite job is thus a result of access to elite intuitions and the ability to perform wealth in interviews—things wealthy students are much more capable of than middle class or working class students.

 Evicted demonstrates the effect of class on people’s current positions. The study traces the lives of landlords and renters. Unexpected events that are beyond the realm of renters control sometimes caused people to be evicted from their home. In one particularly painful episode, a couple is evicted because a crime occurred nearby their place that they had not participated in. At another moment, a family is forced out when they cannot afford balancing everyday expenses with rent. To suggest that renters have complete agency over their housing that “anyone can do what they want to do” negates the systems at play in their housing situation.