Coming apart, coming together, coming…?

By Julie J. Park

I’ve been meaning to write an entry on Charles Murray’s book Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010, for a few weeks now. The book is divided into two main parts that address two sizable chunks of the population, elite White folks and lower-income White folks. You can skip Part I if you’ve read Bobos in Paradise or your fill of David Brooks columns–it basically talks about the rise of the meritocrats/creative class/latte-town. Murray’s contribution is documenting the rise of SuperZips, clusters of highly educated, influential folks in various pockets (including but not limited to people who watch Portlandia and their parents, people featured in Stuff White People Like, etc.).   [Read more...]

Institutional Drift of the Working Class

Has something happened to our working class? While much of my research has focused on racial inequalities in America, these investigations usually don’t leave me too far from the broader matter of social class inequalities. When sociologists talk about social inequalities we usually are referring to those who are making low wages or those who are classified in poverty. In class I tend to refer to them as a vulnerable population since many students are working minimum wage jobs and don’t always connect their experience with the concept of being part of the working class.  For the most part the “returns on education,” particularly college education, is still better than no college education-so for many of these students they intuitively know, or hope, that their job at Ann Taylor or as library assistant is temporary until they land a “real job,” the one that their college degree promises.

The message regarding those in poverty and the working poor is usually the same: life is pretty hard, as this online experiment shows (very useful by the way in teaching). Your pay is just sufficient enough to get by as long as you never get sick, don’t get your hours cut, or have a major transportation problem that leaves you showing up for work late (and potentially fired as a result). You’re more often exposed to natural elements, harsh chemicals, and dangerous machinery which can cause bodily harm if you’re not careful. Typical examples include: migrant agrarian workers, waste management, restaurant staff, valet parking workers, fast food employees, building custodians. Millions of Americans who won’t attain a college degree earn their livelihood from these jobs.

When I read about the recent finding that more than 50% of births to women under 30 occur outside of marriage, (which fellow blogger Mark Regnerus described), [Read more...]


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