Flying Toward the Light: Women Transitioning from the Working to the Upper Class

When I was a teenager in the mid-80s, my parents laid out how my life was to be lived even before I lived it. As a girl, I was expected to find a job in a secretarial pool, or in a similar service-sector career, before marrying and having several children by the time I reached my mid-20s. Had I been a boy, I would have been encouraged to find a manual-labor job, ideally in a high-paying trade and as part of a union. Why go to college and struggle for a degree? My parents asked. Why reach for the stars... Read More

Cross-Class Dating

When I first met my current boyfriend, I probably couldn’t have guessed what kind of family he came from. Social class in America isn’t really something we ask people about directly but it plays a huge role in almost every aspect of a person’s life. When you meet someone for the first time it’s impossible to truly know someone’s class or financial status; it’s also incredibly impolite to ask. If you pay close enough attention, however, you can start to pick up clues. It didn’t take me long to figure out that he came from pretty wealthy means. On our... Read More

When Love Crosses Class Lines

What’s it like to be married to someone who grew up in a different class? If you asked most of the 64 college-educated adults who I interviewed who did so, they would tell you that it was like being married to anyone else. Most said that they loved their partner deeply, and, like all couples, they faced some challenges – challenges that they thought were based upon their own idiosyncratic personalities. But I also interviewed college-educated adults who married a spouse who shared their class background, and their experiences were very different. The “idiosyncrasies” of each person and marriage, it... Read More

Is That What They Would Say?: Home Knowledge vs. School Knowledge

Two incidents from my school years illustrate the clash between home experience and school assumptions. In second grade, I was drawing in my Alice and Jerry book, a lovely book about the foreign country of the middle class where kids got surprise playhouses for their birthdays— built, painted, and transported by Dad and Grandpa who’d set aside their suits and fedoras for the weekend. On the day I remember, I had the enjoyable task of drawing (with nice crayons, more than eight to a package, and all still with sharp points and paper wrappings) a response to this prompt: “Mother... Read More

Class Consciousness and College Education: 529 Plan Strikes Nerve

President Obama released his budget proposal this week outlining a number of commonsense ideas to reduce inequality and create an even playing field. One provision contained in his budget that certainly won’t become law anytime soon is a proposed levy on college savings accounts known as 529 plans, which the White House has publicly rescinded. The death of this plan speaks to the class divisions in both the Democratic and Republican parties wherein upper class interests are held above all else. The White House released their proposed changes to 529 plans two weeks before releasing their full budget and the... Read More

Health and Cost-savings through Class Privilege and Contacts

Recently our family had an experience of cheaper and easier health care, because of the people that we know and our current financial status. My 19-year-old son was diagnosed with an eye condition, kerataconus, that was causing his eyesight to degrade. His eye doctor recommended that he get surgery – but the surgery wasn’t FDA-approved, thus wasn’t covered by my Blue Cross health insurance. This was the first way class privilege changed this story: that we were able to afford a multi-thousand dollar operation that wasn’t covered by insurance. It would take a chunk of our savings, but we could... Read More

Taken-for-granted Social Class Privileges

CLASS PRIVILEGE MEANS…  A list compiled by the students in my sociology course on Inequality: –I can pay to have dental work and therefore keep my teeth intact. –If I speak out, I am assumed to be worthy of a voice, and people will respond to me in a prompt and respectful way. –I can afford to purchase clothes for a job interview. –It is assumed that I am a good person who can be trusted to not steal, etc. –When I go to thrift shops and garage sales, it is because it is fun and creative, not because I... Read More

Privatizing Driver’s Ed: a Lesson in Disenfranchisement

When I went to high school in Wisconsin, Driver’s Ed was a required course, first in the classroom where we learned in-depth about rules and safety, and then behind-the-wheel in a room of simulators which offered the physical experience of turning a key, and locating the brake, gas pedal, blinkers, and gear shift. Finally, we drove in real cars, not just in the city, but on the highway, dealing with ice and other obstacles. We were well prepared to take a road test. And most of us did. Now my daughter’s of an age to drive in California. But California... Read More
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