Category Archives: American Dream

Social Mobility

Social class is a social ranking. Your social class is often determined by how much money make, but it can also be determined by how you dress, the kind of food you eat, music you listen to, and people you hang out with. Many people in America try to deny that social classes exist. Yet many people try to move into higher social rankings. That process is called social mobility. With social mobility you can move up into higher “better” social class, which is called vertical mobility. Other types of social mobility are horizontal mobility, moving from one social position to another in the same social rank. So you are actually not improving or decreasing your class. An example of this would be working at McDonalds making minimum wage, and leaving McDonalds to take another different type of minimum wage job, such as a maid at Holiday Inn. Intergenerational mobility is changing your social position from that of your parents. An example of this would be if someone’s mom was a dentist and their child became a store clerk; that is an example of downward intergenerational mobility. Upward intergeneration mobility would be if your mother was a high school teacher and you became an engineer.  In this, you would be experience upward intergenerational mobility. The last form of social mobility is intragenerational mobility is moving up in social class as an adult. An example of this would be starting your adult life as a dental assistant and then becoming a dentist.

Horizontal mobility is the mobility that many people go through. I have personally experienced and have witnessed other people go through this experience. When I turned 16 I got my first job at a clothing store, and since turning 16 I have had three other jobs at other clothing stores. So I continue to move to different jobs but they always have the same ranking. A different example of horizontal mobility that I have witnessed is with my dad. My dad graduated high school, but did not continue his education, and because of that my dad has not been able to move upward. He worked at a warehouse for about ten years packing and unpacking foods to prisons, and once he became tired of that he started a different job as a truck driver. Even though the jobs have different titles, they both have the same social rank. Vertical mobility does not happen as often as horizontal mobility but it does happen. Some examples of this date back all the way back to pre-Civil War America. Before President Abraham Lincoln took office, he was born into a poor family and had little money to his name. Lincoln would often use his vertical mobility successes as a way to show people that anyone can achieve this American dream like he did, as long as you work hard.

Karl Marx says social status relates to who owns the means of production. Owning the means of production give higher status people a leg up and differentiating them from those who are the workers.   As long capitalism exists there will always be a division in classes. A counter to Marx’s ideas is the belief in the American Dream.  Since competition is at the heart of capitalism it always is showing people that as long as you work harder than the group who is currently dominant, then you have a chance to experience vertical mobility and this type of competition is what keeps the American dream alive.

1-4However there are many problems associated with social mobility. An example of this would be blacks trying to climb the social ladder. Since America was founded, blacks were always on the bottom of the social ladder. Back in the 1900’s, many lower class whites would take pride in the fact that “at least they were not black.” Now in the twenty-first century, blacks are treated as equal, but blacks and whites still think of blacks as lower class.  They think like this without even realizing this is what they are doing.  When blacks start to climb the social ladder, many other blacks start saying things to them like “you are acting white” and other degrading things. Many blacks who try to climb the social ladder and improve on their social status would say things like, “we not only have to prove that we are good enough to move up in class, but we have to prove that we are better than “black”.” An example of this is when Jamelle Bouie, a Slate staff writer, who talks about politics and race talks about how even if a white family and a black family grew up exactly the same, the white family would experience more social mobility than the black. “If you took two children – one white, one black – and gave them parents with similar jobs, similar educations, and similar values, the black child would be much more likely to grow up in a neighborhood with higher poverty, worse schools, and more violence.”(Why black Americans have a hard time climbing the social ladder.)

Many Americans try to ignore the fact that social mobility exists; this is the root of the problem. If people accepted the fact that social mobility was a very common thing that people tried to do every day, then people would not be so tough on those who are openly trying to have vertical social mobility. It’s almost as if these people are trying to make fun of the people they are trying to become. An example of this would be celebrities; everybody always makes fun of the things they do and ignore their accomplishments.  Maybe some of these critics are actually just wishing to experience the mobility that these stars have achieved.

— Meeshon

 

Work cited:  Bouie, Jamelle.”Why black Americans have a hard time climbing the economic ladder: Slat opinion.” Oregonlive.com. n.b. Web. 22 Nov. 2014.

 

 

The American Dream

I would say I grew up in a lower middle class household. My mother a nurse and my father a small engine mechanic. There were some birthdays and Christmases that were better than others but overall my family was pretty well off. I was not spoiled by any means but I normally got what I wanted, within reason. We lived in a four bedroom house somewhere between rural and suburban. More suburb if I had to choose one. It was home and I would not have traded it for anything else. In high school I had this dream of playing football at a private college called Albion. I visited the college and the coaches really wanted me on the team. However, financially, the money just was not there. Government financial aid did not help out enough for me to attend this college and thus my dream was shattered. I was devastated at first but soon realized it was not the end of the world. I then applied to Lansing Community College and am excelling exponentially.

Everything in our society revolves around money and what socioeconomic status you belong. Statuses can be divided into a few categories based on income. Starting from the bottom it goes like this, lower class, working lower class, lower middle class, upper middle class and upper class. This structure of socioeconomic status has been adopted by many sociologist in recent years. There are any different concepts that contribute to socioeconomic status including, race, location and family type.

Race is probably the most influential aspect of socioeconomic status. In the United States some races have huge advantages and disadvantages. My family is white, both of my parents have Dutch and Irish backgrounds. The United States is 63.2% white by population, however, only 41.5% of the poor population are white (Soc. P.255). More than half of the population in the United States is white but less than half are below the poverty line. Just being born with a white background puts me in a pretty good spot as far as socioeconomic status is concerned. So is that it, as long as you are born into a white family you will be rich? This is simply not the case, these are only averages. There are other factors that contribute, like where you live.

Location is a very interesting concept to socioeconomic status. Where you live has a direct impact on socioeconomic status. The Deep South for example is at a very high disadvantage. South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona all fall in last place with an average of 17-22.2% of the population, in those states, below the poverty line (Soc. P.255). For my family we are sitting pretty well off in this category as well. Living in the great mid-west state of Michigan we experience only 13.3-15.1% of the population below the poverty line (Soc. P.255). Much less than the southern states. What causes this? Race? Location? Family type?

Family types varies across the board, from single dad to happily married couples. The type of family has an impact on socioeconomic status. Married couples have it the best and it makes sense. Two adults, two incomes combining to make one. My family was very well off in this category. My mom makes an average of about $50,000 a year and my dad about $32,00 combining for a total of about $82,000 a year. That is a lot more money than say a single mom or single dad could. But again there are exceptions all over.

The point is there are many different aspects and concepts that make up ones socioeconomic status. They all add up to the end product which is where you stand in the greater society. My family is sitting in a fairly good place for what we need. We have food on the table every night, clothes on our backs and a roof over our heads. We have all that we could hope for. I think I got ahead of my status when looking for colleges to attend, picking a private school was not the best case scenario. As far as my football dreams go, when one door closes another shall open. I am currently an assistant coach on my hometown’s middle school football team. Teaching the game of football to younger kids is way more enjoyable than playing, in my opinion. There is a lot that money can buy but it cannot buy you everything. “Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as a driver” – Ayn Rand.

 — Dylon

 

Works cited:  Witt, Soc 3rd edition. Mcgraw Hill Education Inc. P. 236-263. New York, NY. 2014.