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SESSION 7

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SESSION 7

    SESSION 7

    Cheryl Childers

Course Title: A Social Vulnerability Approach to Disasters

Session 7: Social Class and Disaster Vulnerability I

     [1 of 2 Sessions ] Time: 1 hour

Objectives:

At the conclusion of this session, the students should be able to:

Objective 7.1 Describe distribution of income and poverty in the U.S.

    Objective 7.2 Define “social class” and describe demographic distribution of

     social classes in the U.S.

    Objective 7.3 Explain how “social class” structures people’s access to “life

     chances”

Scope:

This is the first of a two-part discussion of how social class influences the ways in people live

    their lives and, ultimately, aids or hinders their resilience to disasters. The first session examines

    the concept of social class as a basis for social stratification which structures “life chances,” among which is vulnerability to disaster.

The information learned in this session will be used to examine social class and its effect on

    vulnerability to disaster in the next session.

Suggested Readings:

Instructor readings:

    1. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. 2002. “Census Data Show Increases in Extent and Severity of Poverty and Decline in Household Income.” Available online at:

    http://www.cbpp.org/9-24-02pov.htm.

2. Keister, Lisa A. and Stephanie Moller. 2000. “Wealth Inequality in the United States,”

    Annual Review of Sociology 26: 63-81. Available online through InfoTrac.

    3. Mantsios, Gregory. 2001. “Class in America: Myths and Realities (2000).” Pp. 168-182 in

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    Paula S. Rothenberg (ed.). Race, Class, and Gender in the United States, 5th ed. NY: Worth.

Student reading:

    1. Langston, Donna. 2001. “Tired of Playing Monopoly?” Pp. 125-134 in Margaret L. Andersen and Patricia Hill Collins (eds.). Race, Class, and Gender: An Anthology. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Supplemental reading:

    1. Rubin, Lillian B. 1994. Families on the Fault Line: America’s Working Class Speaks about the Family, the Economy, Race, and Ethnicity. NY: HarperCollins.

    General Requirements: Briefly review session objectives [Slide 2]

Objective 7.1 Describe distribution of income and poverty in the U.S.

Requirements:

After presenting the information in lecture format, the instructor could have available the same

    information for the students’ local community, county, and/or state.

Remarks:

    I. The U.S. has the highest “wealth gap” and highest poverty rate of all industrialized

     countries

    A. Wealth gap

    1. Economists measure the wealth gap by comparing CEO pay as a ratio of

    an average worker’s pay

    2. The wealth gap for the U.S. in 1999 was 475 [Slide 3]

    B. Poverty rate

    1. Median household income for the top 20% of the population rose to an all-

    time high in 2001, while falling to an all-time low for the other 80% of the

    population (Slide 4)

    2. Average household net worth fell over 70% for the bottom 40% of the

    population in 1998, while increasing for the other 60% of the population

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    (Slide 5)

    ? The reduction in household net worth is important because it reduces other

    resources upon which households may draw when facing crises

    ? When almost half of the population has a decrease in household net worth,

    Americans’ ability to recover from disaster declines

3. Median household income fell for all regions of the country except the

    northeast (Center for Budget and Policy Priorits 2002)

4. The poverty rate for the U.S. in 2001 was 11.7%, an increase from 2000

    (U.S. Census Bureau 2002) [Slide 6]

    ? In 1959, the poverty rate was 22.4%. After the U.S. government

    implemented social assistance programs in the 1960s, poverty rates

    began to steadily decline.

    ? Two economic recessions sparked increases in the poverty rates, one in

    the mid 1980s and another in the early 1990s.

    ? After a fairly steady decrease since 1993, poverty rates began to

    increase again in 2001. Economists have again tied this upward swing to

    a recession which began in March of 2001 (U.S. Census Bureau 2002).

5. Poverty rates looking at interaction of other demographic factors:

    ? Race/ethnicity [Slide 7]

    ? Education level of householder [Slide 8]

    ? Age of householder [Slide 9]

    ? Family type [Slide 10]

    Objective 7.2 Define “social class” and describe demographic distribution of social class in

     the U.S.

    Requirements: none

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    Remarks:

    I. What is “social class?”

A. Social class is a “category of people who have similar access to resources and

    opportunities” (Macionis 2002: 30)

B. Social classes are generally distinguished by a combination of income, level of

    education, and occupation

C. People who trade similar kinds of skills and services in the labor force for similar

    types of wages comprise a “class” (Weber 1946):

    1. People who own property, specifically property which can be translated into

    money or capital, comprise the upper part of the class hierarchy

    2. People who do not own property comprise the lower part of the class hierarchy

    and are differentiated in class by the types of services or skills they bring to the

    labor market

D. Using Mantsios’ article “Class in America: Myths and Realities,” discuss

    generally-held beliefs about the U.S. regarding class and what the realities about

    income distribution really are: [Slide 11]

    1. Myths (Mantsios 2002: 169-170)

    ? The U.S. is fundamentally a classless society

    ? The U.S. is essentially a middle-class nation

    ? Members of the U.S. are all getting richer

    ? Everyone has an equal chance to succeed

    2. Realities (Mantsios 2002: 170-171)

    ? There are enormous differences in the economic status of U.S. citizens

    ? The middle class in the U.S. holds a very small share of the nation’s wealth,

    and its income

    ? The middle class is shrinking in size, and the gap between rich and poor is

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    bigger than it has ever been

    II. Distinguishing social classes (Marger 1999: 28) [Slide 12]

    A. Upper Classes (2% of the U.S. population)

    1. “Upper-Upper Class”

    ? Often referred to as blue-blood or societyor old money

    ? Membership is usually a result of birth

    ? Their wealth is usually inherited rather than earned; major source of income

    is assets

    ? Typical occupations: investors, corporate executives

    ? Children are educated at elite schools and universities

    ? Women usually maintain a full-time schedule of charity and volunteer work

    2. “Lower-Upper Class”

    ? Often referred to as new money

    ? Approximate family income range: >$1,000,000

    ? Their wealth is usually earned rather than inherited

    ? Typical occupations: investors, corporate executives

    ? Children are educated at elite schools and universities

    ? Often excluded from associations controlled by the upper-upper-class

B. Middle classes (50-60% of the U.S. population)

     1. “Upper-Middle Class”

    ? Comprise 45-50% of the middle class

    ? Tend to work in high-prestige professional occupations, such as upper-level

    managers, or are small-business owners

    ? Major source of income is salaries

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? Approximate family income range: $75,000-$1,000,000

? Are generally able to accumulate property

    ? Are more likely to have graduate degrees than any other class

? Children are educated at elite universities

? Lower-Upper class recruits members from this class

    2. “Lower-Middle Class”

    ? Comprise 45-50% of the middle class

    ? Tend to work in less prestigious white-collar or highly-skilled blue-collar

    occupations, such as lower-level managers, semi-professions, crafts

? Major source of income is salaries and wages

? Approximate family income range: $35,000-$75,000

    ? Are able to accumulate small amount of property, mostly likely their house

    ? More likely to have high school diploma than college degree

    ? Children are educated at state-supported public universities

    C. Working class (25-30% of the U.S. population)

    ? Tend to work in semi-skilled white- or less-skilled blue-collar occupations,

    such as machine operatives, clerical, and retail sales

? Major source of income is wages

? Approximate family income range: $25,000-$40,000

    ? Are able to accumulate little or no property, most likely their house

? Are vulnerable to financial crises

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    ? Children are less likely to go to college than higher classes

D. Lower class (20-25% of the U.S. population)

     1. Working Poor

    ? Comprise 60% of poor families

    ? Tend to work full-time (21%) or part-time (39%) in low-prestige, low-wage,

    no-skilled occupations, such as service or unskilled machine operatives

    ? Incomes range from below poverty level to no more than 25% above poverty

    level

    ? Are extremely vulnerable to financial crises

    ? Are most likely to be high school graduates

2. Officially Poor

    ? Comprise 26% of poor families

    ? Tend to work either part-time in low-prestige, low-wage, no-skilled

    occupations or do not work

    ? Are partially or fully dependent on public assistance

    ? Are more likely to be female single-parent families than any other class

    ? Are more likely found in inner cities or in rural areas where jobs are scarce

    ? Few children attend college

3. Underclass

    ? Comprise 14% of poor families

    ? Live in inner cities or rural areas with high concentrations of poverty and few

    opportunities

    ? Heads of families are likely to not work at all

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    ? Main source of income is public assistance or the underground economy

    ? Poverty is chronic and likely to be intergenerational

    ? Communities are socially isolated from the larger society

    ? Have high drop-out rates; are less likely to finish high school than any other

    class

Objective 7.3 Explain how “social class” structures people’s access to “life chances”

Requirements: none

Remarks:

    I. What are “life chances”?

    A. Life chances are the probability that an individual has access to valued resources

    B. Examples of life chances [Slide 13]

    II. What are “life styles”?

    A. Life styles are distinct behavior and attitudinal patterns

    B. Examples of life styles [Slide 14]

    1. Do you shop at Wal-Mart, or do you shop at Neiman Marcus?

    2. Do you take a vacation to a nearby amusement park, or do you spend a few weeks

    on the Riviera?

    3. Do you go out to eat at Red Lobster, or do you have fresh lobster flown in from

    Maine?

    4. Do you own a 20-foot fishing boat, or do you own an 80-foot yacht?

    5. Do you live in a 1,200-sq-ft. house with a small lawn, or do you live in a 5,000-sq-

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    ft. home in a gated community?

    6. Do you participate in the local bowling league, or do you play polo?

    III. Social class and life chances/life styles

A. Social class increases or decreases the chance for individuals to experience events

    or circumstances that enhance the quality of life (Mantsios 2002 ) [Slide 15]

    1. There are enormous class differences in lifestyles among the haves, have-nots, and

    have-littles (pg. 176)

    2. From cradle to grave, class standing has a significant impact on our chances for

    survival (pg. 177)

    3. Class standing has a significant impact on chances for educational attainment (pg.

    176)

    4. All Americans do not have an equal opportunity to succeed (pg. 178)

    5. Racism and sexism compound the effects of classism in society (pg. 180). These

    structural systems will be examined in later sessions.

B. Other examples of social class and life chances/life styles

    1. Health [Slide 16]

    ? Over 15% of poor families are malnourished (Center on Huger and Poverty

    2000)

    ? Over 33% of poor families lack any health insurance (U.S. Census Bureau

    2002)

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    ? Infant mortality rate for poor families is twice the national average; for

    families in extreme poverty, the rate is four times the national average

    (Macionis 2002)

    ? Members of poor families have lower life expectancies than those in non-

    poor families (Williams 1990)

    ? Members of poor families are more likely than those from non-poor families

    to live and work in hazardous or toxic environments (Syme and Berkman

    1997)

     2. Housing [Slide 17]

    ? Approximately 82% of poor renter households spent more than 30% of their

    household income on rent and utilities in 1995 (Daskal 1998: 12)

    ? About 60% of poor renters spent more than 50% of their household income

    on housing in 1995, compared to only 3% of non-poor renters (earning more

    than 200% of the poverty line) (Daskal 1998)

    ? The typical poor renter that did not live in subsidized housing spent 77% of

    household income on housing in 1995 (Daskal 1998: 2)

    ? In 1998, the shortage of affordable housing exceeded 700,000 rental units in

    the United States, up from 300,000 in 1970 (Daskal 1998: 10)

    ? More than half of all poor homeowners spend a majority of their income on

    housing (Daskal 1998)

    ? Approximately 14% of poor renters lived in housing with moderate or

    severe physical problems in 1995 (Daskal 1998: 22)

    ? More than 13% of poor renters lived in overcrowded housing in 1995

    (Daskal 1998)

    ? Approximately 40% of poor homeowners lived in poor quality housing in

    1995 (Daskal 1998)

    ? As many as 500,000 people are homeless on any given night, while up to 2

    million may be homeless at least some time during a given year (Bohannan

    1991)

    3. Education [Slide 18]

    ? Children from poor families are more likely than children from non-poor

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