Scenes from Honors’ Sociology 1306 1.0

Scenes from Honors’ Sociology 1306 1.0

 

In the group project, the class was divided up in five groups and each was given a portion of $20 in accordance with that group’s percentage of national income. The portion ranged from $10.10 for the top fifth, to $ .80 for the bottom fifth. My group was the fourth fifth and received $1.72

 

With that, we bought a box of Wal-Mart Brand Pop Tarts and called it a day.

 

What follows is my “feelings paper”

 

 

The meaning of life often varies depending on the point of view of the man/woman living it. For some, life is a never ending quest for new challenges and mountains to conquer. For others, the very act of living life is a challenge. I grew up in a working class household where there was a meal on the table every single day. It wasn’t always a new meal, as my mother had elevated the art of the leftover to an art form, but it was a meal, meat, starch, vegetable. Maybe it was canned vegetables, maybe it was frozen, but there were vegetables to be had every night. I knew we were hardly rich, because my mother announced that with every purchase. I knew we lived from paycheck to paycheck because I always noticed the meals getting more and more creative as the first or the fifteenth approached. I had classmates who weren’t eating every night and many of the ones who were eating meals that bore no resemblance to well balanced four food group signs I saw at school.

I remember vividly the feeling had when I realized what kind of project we were to undertake. As an economics buff and someone who grew up in less than ideal circumstances, income distribution and the issues caused by it are pivotal issues in my life. When I saw the amount that we had, I had already outlined about 4 or 5 different options in my head. It is like second nature to me. Not a month passes by where I don’t find myself counting the money in my wallet and stretching that money over multiple meals. As someone who grew up working class who has gone on to a moderate level of affluence by virtue of making a living serving the truly affluent in one capacity or another, I am acutely aware of the chasm that exists between the classes and the lifestyle differences caused by the access to resources or lack thereof.

It is easy to presume that this kind of experiment would open the eyes of people to income distribution, but I am not so sure. Such an isolated experience does not affect the kind of lifestyle change that would truly have an impact. If the experiment were extended long enough to force the subjects to adapt their lifestyles to such a reduction in income then perhaps more of an effect can be seen. Piecing together a meal (that can easily be supplemented later) doesn’t have nearly the effect of 7 days of careful and meticulous menu selection.

4 comments

  1. Jonzee

    I met a woman over this past weekend who has for lack of a better term gone from “classy to ashy” in 14 months. This time last year, she had a good paying job, a nice crib in the bay area, a car, and an organic food shopping habit. Since then she has lost or given up every single stitch of that and is not living hand to mouth–wondering if the storage unit place is going to sell her crap if she doesn’t come up with the fee and begging sprint to give her one more month since it is her only life line to be able to make job calls.

    And do you know what her very rich friend who lives solo in Beverly Hills in a 5 bedroom house told her? “I think you have made some bad choices, that is why you are in your situation and I just cannot support that. You should ask someone else for a place to stay.”

    And yet we expect the fools on the hill to understand any of that.

  2. Sonja Cassella

    I’m glad profs are still doing exercises like this. We did a similar but different one (lifeboat, I think it’s called) which drew attention to assumptions people make about others on the basis of their profession. I’ve never forgotten this. I’m sure many of the students in your class will be effected over the long term.

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