Friday, May 20, 2005

The Class Chart

I found the interactive chart on NYT that Rick mentioned in the comments of the article on class that I linked to earlier. It's an interesting chart, though I think it leaves certain factors out. For example, the region of the country you live in, grew up in, etc. I think there are class-oriented biases to that as well. But go ahead and give it a whirl and see what it totals you up to being on the class scale. According to it, I grew up lower middle class, and am now I have climbed to the bottom of the middle class because I have a Master's Degree (too bad said Master's degree comes from a reputationless school where in general only working class kids attend.) Certainly not for my salary or the my accumulated wealth or the social cache of my job. A decent chart, in general, though. Apparently in the past five years I have moved up 8 percentage points. Woohoo! What does it rank you?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It also leaves, out in the net worth catagory, the age of the person. A hundred thousand at age sixty is not much. Having it at age 25 is significant. It is amazing how low average salary and net worth is. What the charts really measure is how white you are which are which is the one thing the Times really does know a lot about.

10:26 AM  
Blogger Christopher said...

Here's my scores:

Occupation: 50th percentile
Education: 69th percentile
Income: 38th percentile
Wealth: 25th percentile
Average: 45th percentile

See, it looks to me like education is what throws everything out of whack. 69th seems high to me for my 32 accumulated hours (or whatever it is).

11:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, I'm in the 42nd percentile. This is proof that a person can be living what is considered upper lower class or lower middle class (I can't figure out which it is) and be having an amazing life. That said, I know that the position I'm in and the wonderful life I'm having is skating very close to the wonderful life I had before, when I had even less money and, apparently, less class. There is a whole population of "secret poor" in America and for a while I was one of them. I would say that the most difficult part about that time in my life was the lack of empathy and compassion displayed by others in better economic situations. I know what this chart is getting at with its idea of class, but my idea of class was altered through the experience of seeing people with more money, better education, and great jobs display a tremendous lack of kindness. As Rick points out, the chart does not cover all the elements of class. Writers need to be vigilant in their definitions and I think we, as a society, have suffered from so easily accepting as whole, definitions which are fragments.

That's my rant.


1:30 PM  
Blogger Christopher Barzak said...

Totally agree with all of you here, on all your seperate points. I do applaud the NYT for trying to tackle the issue in the first place, though. It's a hard one to talk about. It makes people feel more uncomfortable than talking about race and sexuality and gender issues often. And I think it's uncomfortable mostly because it's *not* talked about as often. In any case, I agree with Christopher that the Education thing throws things way off. I have a Master's degree, which puts me in the 97th percentile of education, but I certainly don't have any real cache in terms of money or social standing to show for that degree honestly. 97 percentile seems awful high, especially considering where I received the degree.

And like Mary, it leaves out a lot of things about the invisible nature of certain kinds of lower class individuals. We tend to think of them all as Bastards out of Carolina, but that is one extreme. There are many different kinds of lower class individuals, and some of them you'd never guess who they were because they have learned how to pass.

Along with Christopher, my scores:

Occupation: 45th percentile
Education: 97th percentile
Income 38th percentile
Wealth: 25th percentile
Average: 50th percentile

You're right, Christopher. It's that education in many cases that throws things off. We have the exact same score in all of these, and then my Master's degree from nowhere in Ohio University somehow ranks me in the 97th percentile of education? Hello, that's not the kind of look I get from people who went to "proper" schools when they ask where I went and then look embarrassed for asking and say, I've never heard of it.

2:23 PM  
Blogger Christopher Barzak said...

Actually, just plugged in the data from my life last year at this time:

Occupation: 53rd percentile (I went down there)
Education: same 97th
Income: 3rd percentile (wow, drastic difference, why with that great occupation status??)
Wealth: the same, 25th percentile (no real change because I'm paying off all the debt I managed to accrue while my income was in the 3rd percentile, hehe)
Average: 44th percentile

2:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm in the 79th percentile. But as I said above, this doesn't take into account the fact that I'm a lot older(61) than the rest of you.
And, yes, the B.A. I got back in the mid '60's while figuring out the draft at an obscure (though fun) school counts for more than it ever has in my life.


6:43 AM  
Blogger Christopher said...

I like Mary's concept of the "secret poor," and think it's a wonderful turn of phrase. You can use that for the "creative class" and for "grad students" and probably for several other broad groups of people I'm not as familiar with. Athletes in "minor" sports, maybe, like cycling or womens soccer?

And as she kind of suggested, the weird thing there is that since the secret poor probably have more interaction with traditional wealthy upper class types (thinking of things like arts events here, or even restaurants since my version of secret poverty has often included not putting aside money for, say, a car, but making sure to have money for eating out) there's an extra frisson to the classist behavior when it comes out. The wealthier person doesn't expect anybody in their social orbit to be less wealthy, things of that nature.

And yeah, I think the living of an amazing life can happen--it might have to happen--independent of class and even money concerns (not meaning to suggest that wealthy people can't enjoy amazing lives, heh, just saying that if they do the fact of their wealth is an aid to it, not a cause). I've always felt priviledged, never been dangerously hungry or cold, always enjoyed access to whatever goods and services and education I thought I wanted, and have even travelled quite a bit. And all of that despite my NYT class numbers, particularly on the money side, never looking like they'd support that.

7:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the ways people in the U.S. have used the enormous comparative wealth of the nation is on various kinds of "magic time". Bohemians, Beats, Hippies, Slackers: we take more and more time trying to figure out life and what we want to do about it. Maybe that's why all the ridiculous weight is given to education on the charts. Our poverty, when it occured, was semi-voluntary.

3:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We agree that age of accumulated wealth should be factored in. In our region of the country making 50000 dollars would be considered to be upper class.

sociology in maine

1:15 PM  

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