3 Class & Socioeconomic Status


Discussion Prompt: Poverty Case Study Response

Review the poverty case study included in the Activities section of this Module.  Post some information here about the outcomes of your work on that activity.  Could you get the budget to balance?  What things were not included in the budget?  What changes do you recommend the family make in their living situation?
Next, look at your current community on the New York Times Interactive Poverty Map.  What did you find about how different poverty levels are distributed in your community?  What current percentage of poverty exists where you live?


Discussion Prompt: Social Class Privilege

Calculate a personal score for yourself using the guide listed below.  Then, post your score and your reflections about some of the different items included.  How did it make you feel?  Which items were most difficult for you to answer? How accurate do you think these scores are of social class privilege?

  • If your parents went to college (+ 1 point)
  • If there were more than 50 books in your house when you grew up (+ 1 point)
  • If you ever had to skip a meal or were hungry because there was not enough money to buy food when you were growing up (- 1 point)
  • If you were brought to art galleries, plays, or museums by your parents or guardians (+ 1 point)
  • If one of your parents was unemployed or laid off, not by choice (- 1 point)
  • If prior to age 18, you took a vacation out of the country (+ 1 point)
  • If one of your parents did not complete high school (- 1 point)
  • If you or your family owns your own house (+ 1 point)
  • If you were ever offered a job because of your association with a friend or family member (+ 1 point)
  • If you have ever inherited money or property (+ 1 point)
  • If public transportation was a requirement and not a choice (- 1 point)
  • If your parents purchased a car for you (+ 1 point)
  • If your parents are divorced (- 1 point)
  • If you received a scholarship for college (+ 1 point)
  • If you or your family have or own a summer home or second house (+ 1 point)
  • If you have worked in a fast food restaurant (- 1 point)
  • If you have a trust fund or own stocks and bonds (+ 1 point)
  • If you shared a bedroom as a child (- 1 point)
  • If you have ever shopped with food stamps (- 1 point)
  • If you attended a private school (+ 1 point)
  • If your social class was ever the target of a joke (- 1 point)


Written Response: Reflection Paper Topics

Topic One

Think about the community in which you grew up and the class of your family and other members of the community. How would you describe the class of your family? What was the class of the majority of students in your high school? How do you think class influenced your educational aspirations and those of your high school peers?

How does examining your community on the New York Times Interactive Poverty Map inform your own impressions?  What did you find about how different poverty levels are distributed in your community?  What current percentage of poverty exists where you live?

Topic Two

Think about the different ways the poor pay more mentioned in the article, ‘The High Cost of Poverty’. Explore their ideas on your own by visiting or participating in an activity more common to those in poverty. This can include shopping in a local community grocery store, taking public transit around town for a day, etc. Tell me what you did, what it cost compared to what is normal for you, and describe your overall experiences. How does this change the way you think about those in poverty?

Topic Three

Find an article relating to poverty and ways to eliminate it from The New York Times, The Economist, CNN, or National Public Radio (NPR)Provide a link to the article you choose. How does your article compare to the ideas in what we have read? Do you agree or disagree with the information presented in your article? Do you think the strategies presented in your article would actually work to help the problem of poverty?


Poverty Case Study

A married couple with two children, ages one and three currently live in a two-bedroom house, which includes a stove, refrigerator, washer, and dryer.

Marcus, the father, is working 40 hours per week in a local factory, and earns $9.00 an hour. Amanda, the mother, works part-time evenings on weekends, about 12 hours a week, and earns $7.90 an hour.

After taxes, they have an income of $1,635.00 a month.

Their combined wages make them eligible to receive $137.00 in food stamps per month.

Marcus has health insurance for the family through his job, but must pay $24.00 per paycheck for his benefit. He is not required to take health insurance, however if it is available through his employer and he chooses not to take it, the family is not eligible to receive Medical Assistance.

The family has one 2004 Honda Civic which they are making payments of $178.00 a month and have one year of payments left. Car insurance costs $147.00 a month. By law, they are required to carry car insurance. The car is their only transportation option for work, since the area where they live does not have public transportation.

Marcus and Amanda have been spending about $285.00 a month more than they earn. They have borrowed money from family and friends to pay their last month’s rent, and are now two months behind on their car loan.

Low-income housing is unavailable because of Marcus’ salary. They cannot move in with anyone else.

What changes do you recommend to their monthly budget?

Are there any other changes you think this family should make, such as jobs or lifestyle?

What is not included on their budget that would be most difficult to live without?

Here is a copy of their current monthly budget. Space is provided for items you think are currently missing or should be added.

Family Budget

Current Spending

Revised Spending



Natural Gas






Cell Phones






Personal Hygiene Products


Gas/Car Maintenance




Car Loan


Car Insurance


Student Loan


Medical Costs






*Grocery spending is in addition to food stamps.

Brainstorm a list of ideas the family could do together for free or for less than $10 for entertainment.

Family Activities for Free:

Family Activities under $10.00:

External Readings & Resources

‘Concerted Cultivation and the Accomplishment of Natural Growth’ – Chapter 1 in Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, & Family Life

Annette Lareau’s work has centered on the way that parenting and family background influence children. In this chapter, she outlines two different approaches to raising children and further discusses the implications of these on students.

Lareau, A. (2011). Unequal childhoods : class, race, and family life. Berkeley : University of California Press, c2011.

‘At the Edge of Poverty’ – Introduction in The Working Poor: Invisible in America

Often the national narrative surrounding poverty in the United States is the idea that, “work works”. However, David Shipler takes issue with that premise in this piece where he highlights many of the challenges facing people in poverty today. Shipler further discusses the balance of personal responsibility and social responsibility as means to eliminate poverty in the future.

Shipler, D. K. (2004). The working poor : invisible in America. New York : A. Knopf : Distributed by Random House, 2004.

Brown, D. (2009, May 18). The high cost of poverty: why the poor pay more. The Washington Post.

This article also speaks to many of the challenges facing the working poor in the United States today. In particular, it focuses on ways that the poor pay more, largely with their time, in dominant society.


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Exploring Socio-Cultural Perspectives on Diversity Copyright © by Deanna Cozart is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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