Thought of the Day: “The man of great wealth owes a peculiar obligation to the state because he derives special advantages from the mere existence of government.” – Theodore Roosevelt
Income inequality is a major problem not only throughout the United States but throughout the world. I took the article picture from a U.K. publication to emphasize the point that they have the same reading problem we have here in the States. However, the United States has specific nuances that cause inequality across race, starting social class, or even region lines. Although, phenomenon such as white privilege do affect Americans everyday perhaps more important are the “privileges” those of a higher social class are provided. One of the most important topics regarding the next presidential race has been income inequality and the power of the 1%. Various trends have caused income inequality in the past to not only continue, but to even further the gap between the haves and the have nots even under a middle-class warrior like Obama.
This is a snippet of a cartoon that simply demonstrates how different classes get ahead link to full cartoon here:
The Atlantic wrote a good article on how subtle differences in social class, race and upbringing shape the wealth of an entire generation. I have witnesses the different narratives and under each main point have given situations where the differences change two similar peoples financial futures for no other reason than a small difference in social class.
While children of middle class white families can expect financial help from their families throughout school and the early stages of their career, and finally at the end of their parents life to receive an inheritance.
One example in particular came in with a stunning 48 hours worth of credits before even stepping foot onto campus. She was able to skip a full almost 2 semesters of first year classes and only took 12-13 hours a semester (4 classes). Her parents fully funded her school, food, board, and even vacations and paid for her to take tutoring for classes such as organic chemistry where the tutoring sessions go over old tests and other useful information. Also she for most semesters she only took 1 class that had less than a 30% chance of getting an A. Without having to work for money, by not having to take most of the first year classes which are known as weed out classes, taking only a single class that could be defined as hard, and having the money for tutoring to significantly improve her chances to do well in her hard classes she had a significant advantage that lower middle class and below students did not. She was able to graduate in 4 years in Chemical Engineering in a program that required 132-140 hours, the grades she earned allowed her to have the highest paying internships every summer, and the job she earned out of college paid in the top 10% of her class. She worked hard and earned all of these things and I bring her case up not to diminish her accomplishments, but to contrast the difference between a upper middle class upbringing and other situations.
In contrast another student came in with 0 hours and a small scholarship that covered tuition, but not room and board. His parents could not fund school so he had to take out loans. He took 15-18 hours a semester (5-6 classes) in order to graduate in a reasonable amount of time. He received varying advice from different people some of whom had never taken engineering classes, some of whom failed out, and some who had different circumstances (see example above). His first year he had slightly higher than a C average after barely surviving his first year of weed out classes. However, he was one of the lucky ones many of his friends had failed out or changed majors from engineering. He was beginning to see how the system worked and his second year he improved dramatically ended up with around a B average. However, due to his slow start he was on the lower end of the spectrum with regards to internships and had to take a job to supplement his loans for school the next year. He had to work a job, tackle 18 hours of junior level classes, and try to network while maintaining his grades. He improved his grades; however, once again only the lower level internships were available because he didn’t have a good internship before. This persisted through 2 years until he was able to graduate in 5 years with an above B average and was able to obtain a good job but not quite top tier. It took him another year and almost $30,000 in student debt to achieve almost as much as the girl in the example above. The only difference social class.
The problem with inequality is that these students aren’t any less intelligent then their more supported peers, but they are at a disadvantage simply because of social class that affects funding and college readiness and that difference snowballs until it is almost impossible to overcome.
The exact opposite is true of some people of a lower class and/or minority families who are expected to contribute to the family from the day they are able to work. If they are fortunate enough to go to college they rarely receive any assistance from their family and as a result have to take out debt to pay for it.
Another graduate of this class also came from a upper middle class family. However, he took 5 years as well to graduate the same program. He took his time, joined fraternity, and enjoyed college. Despite his grades through family connections and his ability to present himself well was able to get good internships and graduated with a good job. His family paid for his school so he had no student loans, they also gave him a car for his graduation present as well as various other gifts. His first year of working he could have chosen to stay at home where he would have received free food as well, but decided to live with a roommate who had a substantially different situation. Regardless, with no debt and his only mandatory expenses rent and food he had a dramatically different financial outlook than his roommate.
Although, they graduated with the same degree and had similar jobs their financial situations were much different. The roommate had several student loans he had to pay back each month. Also the car he had in college was old and worn down so he had to get a new car adding another loan to his financial situation. Also his sisters were starting to enter school and his family expected him to help them go to school as well adding another financial burden. So even though him and his roommate made about the same money over 25% of his income was gone to financial obligations that he had for no other reason then a difference in social class.
These differences may seem small they help to further widen the income gap by delaying the boosting effects of a quality education and job by having young professionals from a lower class retroactively pay for their success while supporting their family instead of being allowed to invest in their own financial future. Even a difference of only $200 a month invested rather than spent on loans or family support over 10 years can be the difference in the down payment on a house and wealth building and a never ending rat race.
The cost of education and a student’s readiness for it may seem like simple things to overcome or issues that will only affect someone for a few years. However, as I’ve written before nearly every American’s entire life is determined by the actions between 18-22. If you are not prepared for college because your secondary education was lacking or if you come from a family that can’t afford to pay for your education even if you manage to do it on your own despite these setbacks, they will affect your financial future significantly.
Not every child is going to come from a family that can gift a car for graduating college, but no student should have to worry about mortgaging their future to pay for college. Along those same lines no parent should have to worry about paying for food or their children’s tuition. The two main debt burdens on the new generation of the middle class are medical debt/insurance and student loan debt. Simply reducing those can have profound affects on social mobility and allow young professionals the freedom to spend, save, and more importantly invest without the crushing weight of debt.
This goes back to my platform’s main points:
A system that makes college affordable without crushing debt
A system that allows the talented of even the poorer families to be educated or educate themselves so they aren’t at a disadvantage in college
The reduction in large causes of familial financial costs most importantly medicine that reduces a families economic burden and allows them and their children to invest for a brighter and wealthier financial future.
Another article highlighting just how hard it is for even the smartest of poor kids vs. even the middling upper middle class ones: