The Impacts of Social Class: Crash Course Sociology #25


Class matters.
You probably already know that. And not only because you’re a student of
sociology, but because you’re a person who
lives in a society. But do you know how much it really matters? Social class is huge determinant of many of
the most fundamental aspects of modern life – from your education, to your beliefs, as well
as your values, your occupation, your income, and
not only how you live, but also how you die. So let’s talk about how class plays out
in the lives of Americans today. [Theme Music] Class starts to matter at the very beginning
of your life. When we discussed socialization a few
episodes ago, we talked about anticipatory socialization,
or learning to fit into a group you’ll someday
be a part of, like a gender or a race. And one type of anticipatory socialization
is class socialization, where parents convey to their children
the values that go along with being upper class
or middle class or working class. Let’s take a simple example. Suppose you’re a parent and your kid absolutely
refuses to eat broccoli. How do you respond? Do you make them clear their plate and say
that they shouldn’t waste food? Or do you allow them to make decisions for
themselves about what they eat? Now, you may be thinking, “What? How does eating broccoli have anything to
do with class?” But how parents from different walks of life
approach parenting can differ a lot by class, as American sociologist Annette Lareau found
in her research on parenting styles. Let’s go to the Thought Bubble to look at
how social class can affect what kind of parent
you are, or what kind you have. In the 1990s, Lareau’s research focused on observing families of elementary school students from upper-middle class and working class backgrounds. In doing this, she realized that parents had
very different approaches to how they educated
and disciplined their kids. She found that upper-middle class parents
tend to be very involved in their kid’s social
and academic lives. Think scheduled play dates, after school activities,
checking their homework assignments every night. The stereotype of a suburban helicopter mom
isn’t too far from the mark for some of these families. By contrast, working class parents – who
were more likely to have less time and money
to devote to these activities – were more likely to be hands off in
structuring their kid’s free time. These kids might be more likely to be playing
with whoever is around their neighborhood than
going on playdates. Working class parents also tend to put a greater
emphasis on obedience and discipline compared to their
upper middle class counterparts, Lareau found. While a working class parent might tell
their kids to eat their broccoli “Because I said so,” an upper middle class parent
is more likely to talk through decisions with their
children in an effort to encourage autonomy. Thanks, Thought Bubble. So, yes, a toddler’s distaste for broccoli
and their parents’ reaction to it, can tell
us something about class. And these trends in parenting aren’t the
only difference in values and beliefs that
we see across classes. Political views tend to vary across class
groups, too, with upper class Americans being more likely to be
fiscally conservative and socially progressive, and lower
class Americans being more likely to be the opposite. Even religion varies by class. Upper income Americans are more heavily
represented in liberal Protestant groups like
Episcopalians and Presbyterians, as well as
Judaism, Hinduism and Atheism, whereas lower income Americans are more likely
to identify as Evangelical Protestants or Catholics. But beliefs and values aren’t the only thing
that vary by social class. A large component of class differences plays
out through educational attainment and its
consequences for success later in life. Education is sometimes called the “Great
Equalizer.” The more people who have access to quality
education, the more equal a society gets. Or so the thinking goes. But whether you get a quality education varies
by the social class you’re born into. So we might be concerned that education will
have the opposite effect, and will actually help pass
inequalities from one generation on to the next. There are a few ways that social class comes
into play when we talk about education in the US. First, where do you live? Income segregation, or the tendency for families of
similar income levels to live in the same neighborhoods,
is incredibly common in the United States. If you’ve ever gone apartment hunting in a big city,
this might not come as a surprise to you. An apartment in a “good” neighborhood,
or an area with low crime, good schools,
and better quality housing, costs way more than a home where crime
and pollution are higher and education and
job access is inconsistent. One reason that access to education
varies by class is that public schools in the
US are funded mainly at the local level, so kids who grow up in affluent neighborhoods
tend to have access to better schools, because
those communities provide more funding. So, living in a better neighborhood tends
to mean access to better educational facilities, as well as to technology like computers,
good teachers, and a wider variety of classes
and extra-curriculars. And that’s assuming you go to a public school. Upper class children are more likely to attend
private schools – and this trend continues
when we get past high school. We mentioned this last week – children who grow up working class or
low-income are much less likely to attend college, and those who do are much more likely to attend
public state schools or two-year community colleges. Among elite colleges, most students don’t
come from low-income families; they come from
the very top of the income distribution. A recent study of social class and college attendance
found that 38 elite colleges including five in the Ivy
League – Brown, Dartmouth, Penn, Princeton, and Yale – had more students who came from the top 1% than
the entire bottom 60%of the income distribution. Some of this inequality in college access is
helped along by the policy of preferential
admittance for so-called “legacy” students, whose parents or other family members
attended the college. Policies like this entrench class inequalities across
generations by making it less likely that those from
lower socioeconomic classes will move up the ladder. Plus, the social networks formed within prestigious
colleges often are the stepping stones toward jobs
and financial success later in life, which again makes it more likely that inequality
will get passed on to a new generation. And of course, political and economic power
tend to be concentrated among those at the
top of the social class ladder. Dreaming of being president when you grow
up? Of the ten presidents who have held office in the
last 50 years, 6 attended an Ivy League school
for either their undergrad or postgrad studies. Every single one had at least a bachelor’s
degree. So education can seem less like the great
equalizer in this case than the great barrier. Without a college degree, there are jobs that
are pretty much impossible to get. The jobs that you can get without a college
degree tend to come with lower prestige, lower pay,
and a greater risk of occupational dangers. Which brings us to the last class difference
we’ll be talking about today: health. Social class affects how you live – but
it also affects how you die. Mortality and disease rates vary by social
class, with upper class Americans living
longer and healthier lives. A man in the 80th percentile, or top of the
income distribution, lives an average of 84 years, while a man at the bottom, in the 20th
percentile, lives an average of 78 years. Women live longer than men typically.
Yay for us! But the income gap is still similar here, with
women in the 80th percentile living about 4.5 years
longer than those in the 20th percentile. Why the huge gap? Some reasons might seem obvious – if you
have more money, you can probably afford
better health care. Or for that matter, afford any health care. Others are maybe less straightforward. For example, low income Americans tend to
eat less healthy food. Now, is that just a matter of different choices
made by different people, or is it a systematic
pattern that links class with eating habits? Well, oftentimes unhealthy foods are cheaper,
both in terms of money and time. Lower class Americans tend to have less leisure time
and less money to spend on cooking healthy meals. After all, it takes a lot less time and money to
pick up McDonald’s than to spend an hour cooking
a meal with expensive organic vegetables. Additionally, many low income Americans
live in what are known as food deserts, or neighborhoods without easy access to
fresh foods, like fruits and vegetables. Other systematic class differences come from
the occupations that different classes tend to hold. Upper and middle class Americans are more
likely to be in white collar, full time jobs, which generally have lower exposure to dangerous
materials and lower risks of accidents on the job. Not to mention more flexible work schedules. Less danger and less stress=better health. Plus, full-time jobs are more likely to provide
benefit packages including health insurance
and paid sick days. It’s much harder to take care of your health
if you can’t take the time off work to go to the
doctor or rest and recover. But that’s the reality for many working
class Americans. Class gaps in health outcomes are clearly
about more than just having the money to
pay for better healthcare. It’s about occupation, neighborhood,
income, education, and all the different ways that advantages like
these can overlap to determine your life course. That’s why social class matters; it gives us a way to identify the
advantages and disadvantages that different
groups of people share, and understand the consequences of
those advantages and disadvantages. Today, we discussed three types of class differences
we see playing out in the United States. First, the beliefs and values parents pass
on to the next generation will vary by class. Second, there are class gaps in educational
attainment which help perpetuate inequality
across generations. And finally, Americans of lower socioeconomic
status tend to have worse health and shorter
lifespans than those with higher class status. Next time we’ll focus on a different aspect of
socioeconomic stratification: social mobility – or, how your social position can change over
your life time, or across generations. Crash Course Sociology is filmed in the Dr.
Cheryl C. Kinney Studio in Missoula, MT, and it’s
made with the help of all these nice people. Our Animation Team is Thought Cafe and Crash
Course is made with Adobe Creative Cloud. If you’d like to keep Crash Course free for everyone,
forever, you can support the series at Patreon, a crowdfunding platform that allows
you to support the content you love. Speaking of Patreon, we’d like to thank all of our
patrons in general, and we’d like to specifically thank
our Headmaster of Learning Ben Holden-Crowther. Thank you so much for your support.

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