272 posts categorized "Class and Stratification"

May 31, 2023

Creating Downtown LA

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

Last summer, the American Sociological Association (ASA) held its annual meeting in downtown Los Angeles (DTLA). “We’re right in your backyard!” an out-of-town colleague said, and while only about 20 miles away, this area is in many ways a world away from where I live in Los Angeles. I seldom go downtown, despite it being a mere 2 miles from my workplace, mostly because I prefer open spaces to commercialized zones. (Yeah, traffic and parking issues are a deterrent too).

The conference took place at the city’s Convention Center, near the crypto.com Arena (formerly known as Staples Center) and LA Live, a complex of sports-themed restaurants, hotels, and performance spaces. My colleague, Leland Saito, studied the development of this area in his book, Building Downtown Los Angeles: The Politics of Race and Place in Urban America. He explores how low-income people of color were systematically displaced over the last five decades—mostly within the last twenty-five years—to create this commercial area. He argues that the meanings of race are intertwined with geographical spaces, and that displacement isn’t just an effect of race, but creates meanings of race itself (pp. 3-4).

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April 10, 2023

How to Like Your Job: Thoughts for Entering the Workforce

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

Want to like your job? It helps if you are upper income, have earned a postgraduate degree, and are 65 or older. But this probably won’t help you if you are a recent graduate about to look for a job.

As we enter college graduation season and many new grads are beginning their journey into the workforce, it is important to figure out not just what you want to do but how you want to live.

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March 27, 2023

Getting a Job: Working for AI

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

I have been fortunate to have had my job for more than twenty years. I have never looked for a job in the twenty-first century. If I did, the process would be a lot different than it was in the 1990s. Monster.com, the first online resume database, only launched in 1999. And while the internet might have had job listings, old-fashioned snail mail was still the main way to apply for a job for many years after that.

Back in the twentieth century, writing a good resume was key. It still is today, but an algorithm is likely to be the first to “see” your resume. In theory, this is meant to help streamline the hiring process and perhaps even get better candidates. Even a first interview might be submitted as a video, screened by a bot to read a candidate’s facial expressions and keywords used.

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March 13, 2023

Student Parents: Rethinking Assumptions about College Students

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

All too often, administrators at my university informally refer to students as “kids” during meetings. Not only are the vast majority college students legal adults, but some are older than traditionally aged college students (18-24). And some of our students are parents themselves.

The Education Trust recently reported that approximately one in five college students in the United States are parents, and that student parents are more likely to be students of color. This percentage is even higher at  for-profit colleges; an Aspen Institute report based on U.S. Department of Education data found that 45 percent of students attending private for-profit schools were also parents. Of all student parents, 42 percent attend community colleges. Most are mothers, and student mothers are less likely to be married than student fathers. Most have children under 6. According to the report, student parents are also more likely to take on student debt—and more perhaps surprisingly—more likely to have GPAs over 3.5.

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February 13, 2023

Let Them Eat Tofu: Getting Real about the Struggles of Low-Wage Mothers

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

My community’s social media news page recently discussed the high cost of eggs, and how local food pantries are having a hard time supplying this staple to needy families. One well-intentioned commenter suggested that instead of cooking eggs, recipients should just bake tofu (actually the comment specified that it should be organic tofu). Problem solved.

Yes, comments like this can be written off as a California stereotype (and yes, I personally do occasionally bake tofu myself), but it also reveals a deeper misunderstanding about the challenges low-income people, who are often single mothers, face. One of the biggest challenges is time, particularly time to cook meals for their families. Eggs can just take minutes to cook, and most importantly, might be a food that children are familiar with and are willing to eat.

Continue reading "Let Them Eat Tofu: Getting Real about the Struggles of Low-Wage Mothers" »

September 26, 2022

Changes in the Middle: Explaining Shifts in the Middle Classes

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

In my lifetime, there has been a major shift for middle income families, sometimes called the “middle class squeeze.” Some households have been squeezed up, as the growth in technology and globalization have created new high paying “knowledge class” occupations, especially in technology-related jobs. As I mentioned in a recent post about growing up in a middle- to upper-middle-class community during the 1970s and 1980s, I have witnessed how these changes have manifested in the past several decades.

What does this mean, how did this happen, and why does it matter?

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July 11, 2022

Class and Geographic Mobility in Academia: Global Perspectives on Class Cultural Mismatch and Linguistic Imperialism in Higher Education

Colby King author photo Kamil Luczaj photo (1)Calvin-odhiambo

By Colby King, Kamil Luczaj, Assistant Professor of Sociology,  University of Information Technology and Management (Rzeszow, Poland), and Calvin Odhiambo, Associate Professor of Sociology, USC Upstate

In January 2022, we held a panel discussion about our research as well as our individual experiences, describing what we know about how social class inequality and geography play a role in social mobility. We discussed how social class mobility intersects with race, language and dialect, geographic background, and gender in career opportunities, particularly how these issues heighten class cultural mismatch, creating challenging circumstances even for successful academics experiencing upward class mobility.  

Dr. Luczaj is a sociologist from Poland. He is interested in international academic careers and working-class cultures. His research addresses the complex relationship between class position and migration experience. For example, he has published a study on foreign-born scholars in Central Europe, and a meta-analysis on foreign-born scholars “on the peripheries.”

Originally from Kenya, Dr. Odhiambo’s experiences as an international academic illustrate many of Dr. Luczaj’s research findings. Dr. King is not an international academic, but has experienced social class mobility through his academic career, and has also written about efforts to support students, faculty, and staff in higher education from first-generation and working-class backgrounds.

Continue reading "Class and Geographic Mobility in Academia: Global Perspectives on Class Cultural Mismatch and Linguistic Imperialism in Higher Education" »

July 04, 2022

Pools and Privilege

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

It’s possible that I learned to swim before I could walk. As an infant, my mother took me to a group swimming lesson at the local YWCA, where mothers introduced their babies to the water. While she held me, I learned such skills as floating, blowing bubbles, and kicking. I also became comfortable in the water, which I have been throughout my life thanks to years of swimming lessons as a child.

I’m a regular lap swimmer now, which provides numerous physical and mental health benefits. And while people at my community pool sometimes compliment my consistency and endurance in the water, I owe most of this to the hidden privileges of having access to pools most of my life. Sure, lots of people don’t swim regularly who could—so I’ll take some credit for suiting up on a regular basis (especially on cold days!)—but many of the factors that lead me to swim are class-based privileges that often go unrecognized.

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June 27, 2022

Awareness of Social Class

Todd SchoepflinBy Todd Schoepflin

I was once asked about when I gained awareness about social class. It struck me as an interesting question. My answer focused on my middle school years when I began meeting people from an affluent part of my hometown.

My childhood was mostly contained to a small radius around my working-class and middle-class neighborhood. When I made new friends in 7th grade, it was easy to observe they lived in bigger homes that were further apart than in my neighborhood, affording people more privacy. A few of my friends in my neighborhood had above-ground pools, whereas new friends had in-ground pools. Yards had wood fences rather than the less expensive chain link fences that I was accustomed to on my street. We learned to jump those chain link fences if we hit a ball into someone else’s property or if we were running through yards when being mischievous. Being around peers with parents who had higher incomes and seeing up close that money flowed more freely for these friends, raised my social class awareness.

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May 09, 2022

“Dream Big!”: Inequality in Dreams of the Future

Jenny Enos author photoBy Jenny Enos 

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Most children and teenagers are asked this question countless of times by well-meaning parents, teachers, and friends. They are often told that anything is possible, and that they can be absolutely anything they want to be.

Some may dream of becoming the next Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, or just some nebulous kind of “celebrity”; others may dream of becoming a doctor, veterinarian, or zookeeper. “Dream big!” is the mantra espoused by many parents who, often aware of the low likelihood of the outcome, nonetheless feel pressure to encourage their children’s dreams. Parenting guides even tell parents to fight the urge to fact-check or reality-check what their children dream of.

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