Can’t Buy Me Love

Being Poor in a Cross-Class Relationship We had just turned 18. We had just started dating after two years of friendship. We had just walked into one of my worst nightmares: Which friggin’ fork do I use first?!? My boyfriend was wealthy, and I was poor. It normally didn’t affect our relationship very much, because we mostly watched movies or played video games in his bedroom. But his 18th birthday was an exception to this rule. It was a night when we would go to a restaurant where the price of one appetizer was the same amount that I would usually... Read More

The Bridge to Love

I’ve watched romantic comedies all my life. The lies they told got me through living with a bad boyfriend in an apartment below a drug dealer whose doorbell didn’t work for far longer than I should have. I was waiting for that third act with all the love and things fitting into place and the heroine getting everything she wanted. But romantic comedies don’t show you the true nature of a codependent relationship. And they don’t show you the depressing pre-nup appointment at the lawyer’s office that surely happened after Richard Gere drove up to Julia Robert’s place in that... Read More

Respect the Laboring Class

I’m British, I’m white and from a poor working-class background in a Northern English city. I am lucky enough to have a university education. I passionately believe in social justice and that everybody should have the same chances for health care, educational opportunities, career advancement, and the right to work hard and prosper. Now, like everyone on the planet, I have my biases and prejudices, too. But like everyone else I developed them as I got older. As a kid I was innocent and carefree. I grew up in what Americans call a neighborhood in a downtown part of Liverpool.... Read More

Class Mobility – Climbing Up, Stepping Down

I grew up in the suburbs of Baltimore, the granddaughter of Hungarian Jews who survived the Holocaust and came to this country with nothing. My father grew up and worked in the same bakery where his Dad worked. His Mom was a seamstress. My Mom’s side was also working-class but slightly better off. Her dad, Pop Pop, was a union printer, and Mema raised the kids and had a home-based invitation business. My great-grandparents came from Russia escaping pogroms. I joke that my parents didn’t really live through the 60s, but it’s kind of true; they were very focused on... Read More

Health Class

There is a wealth of data that tells us that class is a huge determinant of your health. This information is critical for policy change. And as someone working in the fields of human rights and social justice, I fought hard to share this information with decision makers that could do something about the issue. While committed to this work, it was in many ways theoretical. I was an employee of a well-funded nonprofit that believed in providing – and could afford to offer – excellent health care benefits. I had access to excellent health care and dental plans. My... Read More

Health Equity: What’s Working

We have lots of ways to measure what’s not working in the United States. We can quickly pull the latest numbers that track growing inequalities in wealth and opportunity in our society, from displacement driven by gentrification and mounting student debt to low social mobility and gaping health disparities across lines of class and race. But we also need to be able to measure what works – specifically, what factors contribute to making our society healthier and more equal. By doing so, we can determine our priorities and take the necessary steps to ensure all Americans have an equal opportunity to... Read More

Tis Better to Give than to Receive?

Every year in preparation for the holidays, there’s a lot of talk about how it’s better to give than to receive. Many people say we should “give to the needy” and make the holiday about “family instead of stuff.” The idea here is that to want gifts is frivolous, shallow, and greedy. While this could certainly be true in certain circumstances, the idea doesn’t work universally. For starters, calling poor/working class people “the needy” comes from misplaced ideas about who deserves to have their needs met and who doesn’t. The bottom line is that we all have the same human... Read More

It’s Not What You Say, but How?

Using Language as a Weapon of Classism A British friend of mine, who met and married his American wife in London, told me that he dreaded attending her job-related social functions in “The Square Mile.” As a bank executive, her coworkers were mostly upper middle-class, and they, along with banking and corporate elites, attended these affairs. When my friend’s wife introduced him to her associated, he’d shake hands and remain silent for as long as he could. Because once he spoke and they heard his working-class accent, the tenor of the conversation changed and they very politely extricated themselves from... Read More
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