Over the last week or so, we have been exploring data, personal stories and more concerning socioeconomic status in a diverse American society. There are many ways we’ve done this, and many take-aways from the data, encouraging great discussion in class. First, we had to create a context for class stratification in American society as well as a historical context. We also had to take a look a common assumptions and misconceptions as compared to data. Then we had to determine what factors we were going to evaluate: race, gender, class, etc. Here are a couple of the resources we’ve used:
In order to personalize the story and place it in the context of data, we also examined the lives of four people who all work, but have great difficulty in getting by from day to day. That’s primarily because they are low wage workers. The documentary is called, ‘Waging a Living’ by POV on PBS. We saw how income has changed in the last 30-40 years when adjusted for inflation as well as how jobs, single parent families, divorce, health care, and education impacts an individual’s class status. This isn’t equal across different groups in America either.
Once we looked at that data, I introduced Holly Sklar’s ‘Imagine a Country’ essay. Many of the students were shocked and awed by the data while others found justifications for preconceived notions about diverse living conditions in America. I originally found the essay in Paula Rothenberg’s ‘Race, Gender and Class in the United States’. The piece is very provocative and almost always begins great discussion on economic justice as well as free market capitalism.
Finally, we explored the issues of health care and inequality in America. The website Unnatural Causes became a central resource for us in exploring these connections. The site contains video clips, interactive features, health care data, international comparisons and more.