Moving up from the Middle Class (Henslin ch.34, p.383-394)

​From Henslin’s book “Down to Earth Sociology,” chapter 34 discusses the changes in upward mobility of social class, begin in childhood.

From a young age children are exposed to society and quickly work to figure it out whether they realize it or not. One thing that plays a role in this is the parents social class (or social power). According to Wright the working class (lower class) has the least power. This kind of power can be translated into the home and thus social class plays a large role in child development. Other ways it plays a role is the resources and things accessible to the child and family. I know a family who is of the working class, they have little resources and little to no rules which has played a role in their children’s lives and rearing. The children are shy and don’t usually associate outside of their families class, but they are also much more creative to entertain themselves and care for themselves since they don’t have many resources. The basis of this is to say that class has a role in home socialization or just socialization in general. 

Economics and class play a role in material items available to children as well, in the study conducted and broken down in this chapter, 1/3 of respondents said they did not feel deprived and another 1/3 said they did feel deprived of material items and the rest fell in between. For instance I grew up in two different homes with two different social statuses. At my father’s we were upper-middle class, I never felt deprived nor privileged here. At my mother’s we were lower-middle class and I never felt deprived per say but I felt nowhere near privileged. 

Another factor to be considered is cultural capital and how structure is reinforced, expected, or encouraged. “… the social structure is reinforced and usually reproduced, often in subtle, nonobvious ways by the transmission of working-class culture. Parents’ encouragement and expectations are perhaps the most influential. I think this is very prevalent in the way we rear our children. I was always encouraged as a child especially when it came to school and grades. This encouragement my parents showed me is symbolic with cultural and structural reinforcement. Because they encouraged me to do well I followed rules, tried to maintain good grades, and followed the system. Which when thought about in some depth, the class system is based around groups of people following the system. I would say that I also see subtle factors of my parents rearing styles and personalities in me.

Another thing that has always been around for me and although not taught directly but encouraged through hidden curriculum is the American dream. My parents especially my father has come so close to the American dream, or at least his version of the “American dream” that he (and my mother) have always taught me that only I limit myself. My parents are not the only place I have heard this, also from the school, family friends, etc. They have always said to do better and they’ve tried to encourage me to do better than them so I could take the next step toward the American dream. But, is the American dream even real? Because I was raised in a middle class family I have less connections, acceptability, or resources to achieve “the American dream.” I think everyone has a different American dream and what is taught about the American dream is a broad spectrum.

As I had mentioned previously my parents always encouraged me to better than they had. This is inherent contradictions in parental encouragement. This and the American dream are ways to encourage the working classes to work harder. As stated in the chapter someone said that their father defined himself as “someone who actually works for a living” and I myself can recall a time or two my father referred to himself in this manner. Because my father actually did daily manual labor and did backbreaking work for his pay and was a middle class citizen he encouraged me to do better than him in anyway I can (mostly encouraging nonbackbreaking work).

Another thing my father taught me and encourages me to do is make good ties with many people because everyone can be a different resource and that I should be a resource for them too. He had many friends of all trades and they work on a “I’ll scratch you back, if you scratch mine” (if I help you, you help me) system of trade. This is more common among lower and middle class citizens with working skills. I found that this can sometimes create connections between social classes. For instance my father is a middle class worker, he had helped people of the lower class and people of the upper class who have payed him back him back in a similar way. He once made ties with a millionaire in this way, and accosionally speaks to this man even today. 

In America, Although not spoken of much we live in a class system. Some realize this and other don’t, and this in part could be to the large amount to of people in the middle class and the small amount of people in the lower and upper classes. Although the words class never came out of any of my families mouths I think they realize there is a system of classes (hierarchy) and they know where they would fall within that system. I too realize this although I may not use to word class specifically. I think for some that using the word class seems demeaning because it implies inferiority and elite, and most are and know they are not in the elite and thus find it demeaning to use classes. Whatever the case classes effect us all even beginning with childhood. 

There are other things to consider that effect us from early childhood besides class. These could include things like race, gender, ethnicity, academics, etc. These things can also be factors in class identification. There are many ways in which these things can play a role in our childhood rearing and class system and they are highly complicated. Everything mentioned in this post can affect our class or our mobility in class in someway or another. Moving in upward or downward mobility can be shocking for many because they each have different lifestyles. 

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Poverty (Henslin ch.33 p.376-382)

The chapter, The Uses of Poverty: The Poor Pay All, from Henslin’s book “Down to Earth Sociology” discusses the advantages of Poverty, the possible changes that could be adopted, and why poverty is important (mostly to the elite) to the classes above poverty level. 

Although usually viewed in a bad light there are some advantages to poverty, most being for the elite. Some of these may be because there are low status jobs; low paying, dirty, backbreaking jobs that need to be done and poverty ensures they will be. My stepfather once met a homeless man (in poverty) who cleans bathrooms at fast food restaurants in exchange for food or a small amount of cash, this ensures that he gets a meal and that this “dirty work” is geting done. It also encourages people to work these jobs outside of receiving money from welfare or other money systems. The poverty stricken population work at poor wages, therefore they support many government and upper class groups which they believe will help themselves later. They also support the upper groups by paying larger amounts of their wages in taxes and supporting testing (like medical testing). I know a woman who is considered lower-middle class to lower class and she supports the government because most of what she makes goes back to them. Also being that she doesn’t have much money she can’t afford good medical care and therefore is willing to take what she can get and is sometimes a guinnipig without even knowing it. I’ve also heard of broke college students partaking in studies or medical testing for money. The Poor also take jobs that are in the interest of the elite. For instance it is the poor people who are willing to risk it (anything including life) to make it big, so that means they are more likely to take risky jobs if it means they can earn more. Lastly the poor often compromise for things that are “outdated” thus helping our economy by buying the goods that otherwise would have been waisted. Although I didn’t grow up in poverty, I grew up in a home where everything must be used and not taken for granted we used things past their expiration date (if still good), wore hand-me-downs, and used everything to its fullest. Thing like this are more common among people in poverty and they will buy things already outdated. 

Other functions of the poor are more social than economic, and again mostly benefit the upper class or elite. One thing the elite can resist is the label of deviance, but the poor can not. By labeling some or those of Poverty as deviant we can establish social norms. For example, if someone of the upper class were said to have used drugs excessively they would not be deemed a drug addiction or ridiculed for it instead they’d receive private treatment and be good as new, but if this happened to someone in poverty they would be punished, ridiculed, shamed, and may not even receive treatment. The Poor are also said to partake more in “deviant” acts and thus making a socially exceptable amount that the rest of the classes can abide by and partake in too. Someone like a “hooker” may be low class and very sexually active and deviant so they have created an acceptable standard or way to be sexual without being deviant. Much of the art and creations that we take into consideration as being highly valued come from the poor. Country music originated from a poor area, artifacts were created by the historically poor people, etc. Poverty also gives a baseline for others to base their class off of. If you are not poor you must be doing good right? Poverty gives motivation to those in poverty or just above to do better and not be considered poor. Everyone wants to do better and better themselves so we work more and save more so we can move up in the class system. Seeing as that the poor are, well poor, they have little power over the elite and the rest of the classes. This is an advantage for the other classes because they can make the poor do the heavy work or bear the burden of taking on costs of growth. Because the poor don’t often vote they give the political system to the power of elite, but some may bring a balance to the bipartisan system. Each of the political parties has different views and one sides more for the wealthy and the other appeals more to the poor so the poor are more likely to side with the one that appeals more to them. Lastly the poor provide a moral support for the elite because without them who would be inferior and accept charity or welfare. 

This is not to say that poverty should exist or that most or all of these things could be do everything exist without the poor but it is simply “easier” this way. Other ways we could fulfill many of these is with youth, different job descriptions, the incompetent, higher wages or incomes, etc. But again there must be an inferior in a hierarchy system, and there always will be an inferior. The reason poverty is so important is for the elite because without the poor the elite would have no “mules” to do their dirty work.

KW 7.2 How Unequal is Wealth Distributed in the United States – and Why?

For this exercise I watched the video at http://mashable.com/2013/03/02/wealth-inequality/ and give some feedback and and expectation.

A) WOW! I believe I have seen this video before or at least the charts and I know that i have talked about this many times before in different classes and situations but it is still always surprising how skewered the distribution of wealth it in the U.S. I think I am like most people, and think wealth should be divided fairly evenly but slightly skewered and that there actually is a larger percent of money going to the top 20% of people but we don’t realize how bad it is skewered in reality. And I think that mote people should watch this video and know/learn/realize how bad our wealth distribution is in America.

B) In terms from this week’s information what we see here is the differences in social stratification (classes) and their inequalities. According to Marx there were only 2 classes but on Weber’s expansion there are 3 classes, the upper class (owners), middle class (non-owners with skills based on knowledge), and the lower class (the manual laborers). In reality the upper class is known as the powerful elite, and realistically they own the 84% of wealth in the U.S. and the top 1% has 40% of wealth in the U.S. What is valued in the U.S. is not achievable by many and because of this (standard of living) most people are considered middle class. As many know the top percent of wealth owners in the U.S. have more power than the middle or lower class. This is true socially, and politically, meaning that they have power over these things making their statuses even more unrealistic for the rest of us, and making it easier for them to maintain their standard of living.

 

Social class (open stax ch.9)

This chapter touches on social stratification, also known as hierarchy. A few basic things that structure social stratification are that it is a characteristic of society, it is persistent, it is universal but dependant on location, and it is a system of inequality. 

Social stratification is broken down into classes and ones placement in a class depends on income and wealth. From this social stratification can be broken down into two system; the classes system: that you are born I to your situation and you can’t change it, and the class system: which is more open (less strictly structured) and is said that the situation or class you are in is dependent on you and your efforts. The caste system is things like ascribed statuses, like someone could be born into wealth and it was not their choice or doing to be considered wreaths. This can be seen for people like Paris Hilton, the Kardashians, the Robertsons (duck commander), etc. The class system is achieved statuses, so things like working for your money or to build your name and status. This is seen in majority of people in the U.S. with upper, middle, and lower class. 

The upper class is considered the elite and only the top most wealthy people. Again people like the Kardashians would be considered upper class. The middle class is those below the upper class but not considered poverty which is usually defined as and annual income of $30,000 – $150,000. This is where most people in the U.S. would fall on the class system. Even myself and my family would be considered middle class. The lower class is what most would consider poverty. When saying lower class many may think of the homeless but there are many others, not homeless and making money (<$30,000 annually), that would be considered lower-middle class. I once was good friends with a family of 6 who would be considered lower-middle class but lived in a nice rental and had luxuries like most middle class families. These classes can be further slept up into lower- and upper- upper class, middle class, and lower class. 

There are many things that happen within social classes. Things like standard of living change for different social classes because it is the standard by which people maintain their living situation and to maintain their lifestyle. I have met many people of lower-middle class who wear nice and expensive clothes but feel that they must maintain this standard because it is their standard of living. There is also social mobility which is changes in social class status dependent on many things like generation, time, etc. Most parents want their kids to better than them and it seems like a lot of the times they do. In my family we are considered middle class but once I complete my degree I will be considered upper class based on my job. There is a thing called class traits, which  also change by according to social status. These are things like actions or items people have to show social status. For instance many people think that wealthy people act “snooty” and that poor people are more generous. While this is just a stereotype and is not always true I find that there is most of the time a lot of truth to it.

As I mentioned before social stratification if global but it varies by location of what is considered upper, lower, and middle class or what certain treats of these are. Global stratification also compares all these things among different countries. What may be middle class in the U.S. could be considered lower or upper class elsewhere in the world. For instance what we consider lower-middle class in the U.S. is considered upper class in the Phillipines. This could be due to many different things and many may argue that it is because of our standard of living. Social class is everywhere although it may change depending on system, location, economics, time, standard of living, and more.

Mobility in Social stratification  (open stax: ch.9/9.2)

Social stratification is split into a class system and a caste system. Today I’d like to talk about the class system and more so in depth about mobility among classes. For background the class system of stratification refers to a set of people who share similar social statuses and achievements  (achieved statuses). Mobility refers to the ability to change within social classes. Mobility is just a broad term for different things that can happen within the class system. For instance there is upward, downward, intergenerational, intragenerational, and structural mobility.

Upward and downward mobility are just the shift up or down in social class. This happens to many people and I think more so down then up. For instance I have met and known more people and families who have had a downward mobility shift due mostly to job loss. My own family has experienced a downward mobility shit when my father was layer off of his job. Intergenerational mobility is a shift in class between different generations of a family. For instance although I am not there yet, when my boyfriend and I complete our degrees and marry, with a combined income from both being doctors we will be considered upper class where as my parents are considered middle class. Intra generational mobility is class changes throughout their lifetime. Many of us start off with nothing but we may not be considered a class until we are on our own and working for ourselves. Many of us in college would be considered in poverty or if we’re luck as lower middle class but we work our way up to upper middle class or higher. I’m starting from the bottom and with my family we’d be considered lower-middle class but one day I will be upper class. Lastly structural mobility is when society allows a group to move up or down in a social class. This for instance could happen if we changed the income standards of poverty, middle class, or upper class. Similarly this might happen in a depression situation.

Deviance

Deviance to sociologist is known as violations of norms. Where we most commonly think of deviance may be in teenagers, but really deviance can be found more often then you think. For instance deviance also changes as the times and society changes so what was once seen as deviant may not be anymore and vise versa. For instance what was once deviant for women was to show your ankles but this is no longer the case. 

Deviance although seen as a bad thing has certain roles and importance to it. For instance, without deviance how would we know what the norms are and what is and is not okay. Also deviance strengthens cultural norms and values, clarifies moral boundaries, promotes social unity, and encourages social change. There are also different kinds of deviance, one that many may not see as deviant but is, is innovation. Innovation is a type of deviance because they accept cultural goals but reject cultural means (or the hard working way of reaching those goals). Think of someone like Steve Jobs, he’s an innovator right? Well he’s also deviant in the eyes of structural functionists because he accepted cultural goals but rejected the cultural means of getting it. 

Deviance also comes with labels, if you are seen as deviant you are usually given a label. Before like I mentioned Steve Jobs is a deviant but he’s labled an innovator, but some deviants have different labels. Many labels include but are not limited to “goth, slut, weird, …etc.,” and these are things that strengthen the idea that we need people who are “not normal” so we know what is “normal.” 

Lastly, deviance breaks the norms, and the norms that are broken reflect the interests of the elite. Not only do they reflect the interests of the elite but they can also resist deviant labels. Say for instance that someone sleeps around a lot, more then likely they’d be labled deviant as a slot but if someone of the elite did so they would not be seen as deviant or receive the label of slut. Many follow the belief that “if the elite do it, it must be ‘cool’ or okay.” Because the elite in a way control the norms, capitalism also has a hand to play in deviance. If someone challenges the capitalist system they are seen as deviant. This is basically what happens in peaceful protests of the capitalist system, everyone not involved or supporting the protesters sees them as deviants. They instantly take on the label of deviants because they are going against the capitalist system and the norms. 

Extra KW 6.1 Nonverbal Sanctions

For this exercise I was told to observe some form of a negative Nonverbal sanction. This is very common nowadays and can be observed I think most on the road. The situation that I observed happened to be in a parking lot. 

     1) In the situation I observed the norm that was broken was not taking a parking spot someone else had been waiting for. What happened was a person was waiting for someone to back out of a parking spot when someone else came in and “stole” it. After this person (the norm violator) took the spot, the person who had been waiting flipped them off. 

     2) the norm violator reacted sarcastically surprised and then angry by the persons negative sanction.

     3) I was surprised by the norm violators initial reaction because it is not only an unspoken rule of a norm but it is also very rude. So when the person who had been waiting reacted with a middle finger I was not surprised by their reaction. I think part of the reason I wasn’t surprised by the middle finger is also in part because it is one of the most used and most common unspoken negative sanction. 

     4) I think I was surprised by the norm violators reactions and not by the other persons because I would never “steal” someone else’s spot like that and because I’m sure if someone did that to me I would react in the same way as the other person. My socialization process influenced my reaction because through it I have learned that what the norm violator did was not okay in our society and that what the other person did is a common reaction for events like this. I have adopted the norm that if someone has been waiting for something you do not take what they have been waiting for instead you wait for your own.