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The United States of Income Inequality

Home Forums General Columbus Discussion Politics The United States of Income Inequality

Viewing 15 posts - 16 through 30 (of 1,212 total)
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  • #401302

    gramarye
    Participant

    ChrisSunami wrote >>

    In the United States, this chiefly manifests in our dysfunctional education system. I would go so far as to claim that the reason educational reforms always seem to fail is that there are powerful social forces –which are not necessarily under the conscious control of any individual or group –that both support and benefit from systemic educational inequities.

    How can a “social force … not … under the conscious control of any individual or group” benefit from anything? That sounds to me like saying that “fire” benefits from something (wood?) or that “gravity” benefits from something (matter?).

    I agree with you that our education system is not enviable, though we would likely differ radically on what exactly the nature and cause of the dysfunctionality is and what should be done about it. However, I hesitate to ascribe that dysfunction to broad “social forces,” any more than I ascribe schizophrenia to something as broad “biological forces.”

    #401303

    JonMyers
    Participant

    Rus, lol.

    #401304

    JonMyers
    Participant

    Gram, oddly I was reading an article earlier on the biology that conspires to keep us down. :)

    Ambition: Why Some People Are Most Likely to Succeed

    Not only do we struggle to understand why some people seem to have more ambition than others, but we can’t even agree on just what ambition is. “Ambition is an evolutionary product,” says anthropologist Edward Lowe at Soka University of America, in Aliso Viejo, Calif. “No matter how social status is defined, there are certain people in every community who aggressively pursue it and others who aren’t so aggressive.”
    .
    Dean Simonton, a psychologist at the University of California, Davis, who studies genius, creativity and eccentricity, believes it’s more complicated than that. “Ambition is energy and determination,” he says. “But it calls for goals too. People with goals but no energy are the ones who wind up sitting on the couch saying ‘One day I’m going to build a better mousetrap.’ People with energy but no clear goals just dissipate themselves in one desultory project after the next.”

    .

    #401305

    GW_Justice
    Participant

    It is true that ambition or gumption or whatever you call the force that keeps you plugging away is needed to succeed, but having relatives with money is a big part of it too.

    How many young people do you know who have a restaurant or other small business that was financed by relatives? The WSJ pointed this out[/url] as a recent fad, but it has been common for as long as I have taken note of who has a business and why.

    #401306
    Chris Sunami
    Chris Sunami
    Participant

    Q: What are these vague and imaginary sounding “social forces” of which you speak?

    A: I’ll give two concrete examples. The first is from a case study I read when I was taking a class called “The Role of the School in the Social Order” at OSU.

    We need to start with the concept of “tracking” which is where students are placed in different “tracks” of classes, some leading to higher education, some leading to technical schools or trades. Tracking is almost universal in American schools with mixed income students, and almost universally correlates more strongly with income than with intelligence or ability.

    This particular study concerned an untracked school where a uniformly high quality of education was given to a mixed income group of students. Although everyone agreed the quality of education was high, the school was soon pressured to institute a tracked system. The reason was that the more wealthy, and thus more politically powerful parents, wanted their children to have an education that was not only excellent, but that also was visibly better than the education received by other students.

    This is a natural parental instinct. We all want the best for our own children, and if we have the ability, we secure for them not only an equal start, but a head start over those they will compete against as adults.

    Interestingly enough, there was no huge outcry from the parents of the poorer students when tracking was instituted. Many of them had been uncomfortable with the fact that their children had been encouraged to question authority and to make their own decisions –a social lesson that is typically given to wealthier students, and not to less wealthy students. The result had been conflicts at home with authoritarian parenting styles.

    I think most people would agree that both sets of parents were making natural and perhaps even justifiable decisions. Neither group was looking to make a larger political statement. However, when you multiply one school like this times millions of schools, you end up with a larger social trend of unequal education.

    I’ll write up the other example when I have a chance. It deals with standardized testing.

    #401307

    JonMyers
    Participant

    GW_Justice wrote >>
    It is true that ambition or gumption or whatever you call the force that keeps you plugging away is needed to succeed, but having relatives with money is a big part of it too.
    How many young people do you know who have a restaurant or other small business that was financed by relatives? The WSJ pointed this out[/url] as a recent fad, but it has been common for as long as I have taken note of who has a business and why.

    Sure it happens. There is lots of dumb money splashed around everyday.

    That said, most entrepreneurs I know raise their startup capital by receiving a bank loan, jacking up debt on their credit cards or depleting their savings. 1 to 2% of those entrepreneurs are lucky enough to raise private investment money.

    These entrepreneurs then pray for cash flow to finance the business for the next month.

    Have a conversation with Liz Lessner sometime about how she got started and her struggle to get a bank loan to purchase Bettys.

    I’ve never had a dime of family money to start a business because there was none. It never occurred to me over the years that family money was even an option.

    In my experience most people point to these examples of “rich kids” as excuses not to do something.

    If only people would stop making excuses and do something about it.

    #401308
    Chris Sunami
    Chris Sunami
    Participant

    Re: My immediate previous post (end of page 1)

    I almost forgot to mention –in places where there is a more formalized or legally sanctioned system of inequity, wealthy or powerful parents can ensure their children a head start without the support of things such as inequitable education. So the paradox is that poor kids in such places may actually be better educated than poor kids here.

    That’s why you see a huge jump in social mobility for an oppressed group immediately after a legal barrier is eliminated, and also why it typically doesn’t last.

    #401309

    HeySquare
    Participant

    Everyone is looking for a single bullet as to why this is happening, and I don’t think there is one single cause. It is a different argument to say, “is it possible to make money in America?” than to say “What is the distribution of salary in America today, and how do those salaries compare with how society as a whole was making money 50 years ago?”

    It is a little simplistic to simply say… well, every American should start a business. Not every American is in a position, educationally or personally, to initiate a successful business– a single mother with limited income may not be in a position where she could devote 16 hour days to getting a business off the ground. Other people may not have the compliment of skills (bookkeeping, knowledge of computers, real estate, salesmanship, etc) that are required to initiate a successful business. It doesn’t mean that they are lazy or deserve to eat cat food. A strong economy will be one that offers opportunity to advance for every level of society, in a wide variety of employment scenarios. I believe new business start-ups are an important part of the solution… but I think they aren’t specifically the cause of the change from the past.

    #401310

    JonMyers
    Participant

    Chris, how would the quote below factor into the research? I would assume you would consider immigrants whose second language is English to be a part of this disadvantaged group:

    Of course, once a collectivist not always a collectivist. Marcelo Suárez-Orozco, a professor of globalization and education at New York University, has been following 400 families that immigrated to the U.S. from Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. Many hailed from villages where the American culture of competition is alien, but once they got here, they changed fast.
    .
    As a group, the immigrant children in his study are outperforming their U.S.-born peers. What’s more, the adults are dramatically outperforming the immigrant families that came before them. “One hundred years ago, it took people two to three generations to achieve a middle-class standard of living,” says Suárez-Orozco. “Today they’re getting there within a generation.”
    .
    So this is a good thing, right? Striving people come here to succeed — and do. While there are plenty of benefits that undeniably come with learning the ways of ambition, there are plenty of perils too — many a lot uglier than high school students cheating on the trig final.

    Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1126746-6,00.html#ixzz0yrWkVgf3

    #401311

    coolbuckeye
    Participant

    No I think immigrants would fit your narrative much more than Chris’s Jon.

    #401312

    HeySquare
    Participant

    I do think the Slate article identified several areas in which we can see how the problem has developed:

    I think the Slate article is on to one critical stat: the rise in single person households and single-parent families. I think if we run numbers, we would find that married people (WHO STAY MARRIED, important point) are statistically more likely to economically prosper than single person households, or single-parent families. There is a cooperative economic benefit from sharing services, improved health care (one, if not both, household members holding health insurance)less risk of catastrophic economic failure, that sort of thing.

    I think the other thing Slate just barely touched is the changes the tech revolution and (for lack of a better term..) “big box” retailing has made in business.

    Take for example sales in large companies. 50 years ago, you might have 40 salespeople each doing $1 million in business each year. Now you might have 4 salespeople each doing $10 million (or more) in business. When my dad was in office product sales years ago, he might have made sales calls to 15 clients in a week, now, a salesperson might have one or two accounts (with Office Depot and Staples) that he deals with per year. That’s why, when we see numbers on American productivity increasing, that jobs have been trending toward consolidation into higher salary brackets. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, if you are a salesperson, having a trend of higher paying sales jobs is beneficial for experienced sales workers, but might work against entry-level sales jobs.

    I can see that happening in other areas too– places like copy shops, which used to be a huge small business area, but which have now changed, due in part to the easy availability of cheap printers, and consolidation into one multi-purpose facility (Kinkos-FedEx).

    You combine this productivity consolidation with other globalization trends (like manufacturing going overseas) and I think we begin to get a picture of how this salary trend has developed. I don’t necessarily agree with Chris that an education gap is *causing* the problem, but I think there is a feedback loop that happens. Here is what I mean by that:

    Take for example, the job search. Where does a person search for a job? Folks with less (or ineffective) education, will likely be limited in how they find a job. A review of newsprint want-ads will show how the market is trending: the huge majority of jobs in the newpsper want-ads will be looking for drivers, construction, low end clerical, some skilled clerical, and certain government and technical fields with requirements for equal opportunity advertisement. Has anyone on CU gotten a job out of a newspaper want-ad? Almost everyone I know searches jobs online today. Almost all “white collar” jobs will be advertised online, with a small percentage making it to a newspaper. For someone who hasn’t had to use a computer, there is a huge gap there.

    #401313
    Chris Sunami
    Chris Sunami
    Participant

    @JonMyers

    This phenomenon fits my theory very neatly. For immigrant families, the barrier to social mobility is getting here in the first place. Growing up in a third world country, they don’t have the internalized barriers to success that native-born disadvantaged children have, and once they arrive, they don’t have any legal or opportunity-based barriers either –other than language.

    Of course, I’m presupposing something that most people would find controversial –that many of the self-defeating characteristics we’ve been discussing in this thread (and elsewhere) as either inborn or culturally based (such as mistrust of authority, lack of ambition, passivity, lack of a work ethic and so forth) are (in the USA) actually inculcated in schools and other institutions that serve the poor. No one deliberately teaches such lessons, of course, but once implanted, they serve as internalized barriers to social mobility.

    This last piece is not my own theory, by the way, and there’s a great deal of research to support its reality. Google “hidden curriculum” for more.

    #401314

    JonMyers
    Participant

    HeySquare, there is never a right time or right position to start a business. Waiting on the “right time” is just again, an excuse not to do something.

    I’m not saying most people should start businesses. In fact, most people should not start a business or be an entrepreneur.

    What I am saying is if you want to make more money then you have to take action as an entrepreneur or you have to think like an entrepreneur and add value in your job accordingly.

    Obviously, the latter suggestion isn’t applicable for everyone.

    The other option is to reduce expenses, reduce debt and live within one’s means.

    #401315

    JonMyers
    Participant

    Chris, you’re a little quick to dismiss other obstacles that stand in the way of immigrants achieving higher levels of success.

    Economic hardship would be an opportunity based barrier to higher achievement and success for immigrants. I could name a dozen more.

    If culture is a major culprit that conspires to keep people down, how are immigrant groups who come from cultures, which have no competitive nature suddenly able to adapt, evolve and excel beyond their US born peers?

    In other words, these immigrant groups are themselves prisoners to a culture that they somehow evolve beyond, but their US peers can’t seem to evolve.

    #401316

    SusanB
    Participant

    It seems to me (as a grandchild of immigrants) that the one value that the immigrant groups that have done well in the USA all have one value in common- education as a critical and important value that the older generation both insists upon and sacrifices for the younger generation. There was never a question that I wouldn’t go to college, in fact I didn’t really know that you didn’t have to go to college until I was in my mid teens.

Viewing 15 posts - 16 through 30 (of 1,212 total)

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