those damn irresponsible poors with their flat screen tvs and their cellular phones and their clothes
The things you can afford… but you know… let’s just pretend they’re still paying late 90’s prices and in a booming economy or something…
Also why you shouldn’t attack poor people for unhealthy eating — fresh vegetable calories are a lot more expensive than corn syrup calories, especially if you factor in travel costs for someone who lives in a food desert. It’s a dick move to yell at somebody for “individual responsibility” reasons when those individual choices are severely constrained by structural factors.
Capitalism: Great at providing cheap consumer electronics and toys, bad at providing healthy food, health care, and education. Putting it that way makes it sound like I hate capitalism; actually I’m serious that it’s great for certain things. Free markets are one institutional tool for large-scale decision making (others are democracy, courts, etc.) and we should use free markets for the things they’re good at. The problem comes from assuming that free markets are by definition the right solution to all problems.
Also, can we talk about that uppermost line? The skyrocketing cost of college tuition? I don’t think that’s an accident. I have a theory that one of the major functions of the university education system, the function nobody wants to talk about, is to enforce and perpetuate a class hierarchy within a society that doesn’t have a “class system” in the hereditary British sense. If the function of top colleges is to provide the richest x% of families with a guaranteed fast-track to power and prestige for their children, then they set prices so that only the richest x% can afford it, and then employers looking at a Harvard degree know the candidate “belongs” to the top x% of society. It doesn’t work if they let everybody in. Meanwhile a generic 4-year college degree serves the purpose of a ticket to a middle-class white-collar job, and is priced for middle-class families to perpetuate middle-class membership in their children. Some small fraction of applicants are given scholarships each year to maintain the illusion of egalitarianism / give the lower class something to hope for within the current system so they don’t revolt.
If true, this theory explains why basically all middle-class jobs require a bachelor’s degree despite the total disconnect between the skills you learn while getting a bachelor’s degree and the skills required for the job. The system “worked” (despite being morally repellent) as long as there were decent jobs for the non-college-educated, but with the majority of blue-collar work offshored or automated away and the minimum wage not even keeping pace with inflation, that limited pool of white-collar jobs are now the only way to keep a family out of poverty. Imagine everybody struggling to climb into the top half of a system created to divide the top half from the bottom half: the more people struggling to be above that line, the faster the line rises. Employers can afford to be pickier and pickier, a college education only gets you the jobs that used to require a high-school education, and because demand is basically infinite, colleges can raise prices as much as they want without needing to improve the quality of education they deliver. That’s how college can get 40% more expensive in ten years even though nobody would suggest the education they provide is 40% better than it was 10 years ago. The quality of education is irrelevant to the function of separating the social classes, which is now caught in a runaway feedback loop.
Anybody who knows more than me about the state of college education/tuition want to support or refute this theory?
The second trend is that whether a student graduates or not seems to depend today almost entirely on just one factor — how much money his or her parents make. To put it in blunt terms: Rich kids graduate; poor and working-class kids don’t. Or to put it more statistically: About a quarter of college freshmen born into the bottom half of the income distribution will manage to collect a bachelor’s degree by age 24, while almost 90 percent of freshmen born into families in the top income quartile will go on to finish their degree.
When you read about those gaps, you might assume that they mostly have to do with ability. Rich kids do better on the SAT, so of course they do better in college. But ability turns out to be a relatively minor factor behind this divide. If you compare college students with the same standardized-test scores who come from different family backgrounds, you find that their educational outcomes reflect their parents’ income, not their test scores. Take students like Vanessa, who do moderately well on standardized tests — scoring between 1,000 and 1,200 out of 1,600 on the SAT. If those students come from families in the top-income quartile, they have a 2 in 3 chance of graduating with a four-year degree. If they come from families in the bottom quartile, they have just a 1 in 6 chance of making it to graduation.