Posts Tagged ‘middle class’


Sociology of Lifestyle

March 20, 2010

Posted by: Chad M. Gesser

Twitter:  @profgesser


I’ve been fortunate to be involved locally in the performing arts heavily since 2005.  After all, Sociologists do make great “role models”. 😉

Just a few weeks ago the child friendly touring production of Beauty and the Beast was performing at our local performing arts center.  I was prepared to take my two young daughters to see the show, until I found out the cost for four was going to exceed $165.  Beauty and the Beast is fantastic show, I was lucky to see it in New York City about ten years ago.  But $165?  Was that type of cost really worth the show?

While the facility is one of the nicest in western Kentucky, perhaps these types of productions aren’t the most accessible for those in the middle or the lower end of the socioeconomic ladder.

In fact, there are many lifestyle patterns that can be determined by examining social class.  Take a look at this breakout of obesity by state.  Do you see any pattern? (click the pic to enlarge)

Now take a look at this national map of poverty.  See any additional patterns? (click the pic to enlarge)

Is there a connection between obesity and poverty?  A connection between obesity, poverty, and geography?  Sociologists are trained to look for patterns in explaining society and human behavior.  Considering lifestyle and entertainment, sociologists identify high culture and popular culture.  Do you think social class is a predictor of types of entertainment that people prefer?  Are there some types of entertainment that are generally exclusive to the upper class?  What types of entertainment do members of the lower social classes engage?  Are there patterns?  Why?


The Relativity of Social Understandings

April 10, 2009

Much of the public understands that most social problems in our society have a long history. They view their understandings of the character of most social problems as being just as concrete and well understood. But, some research has shown that many Americans living in poverty today have better housing, food, and personal property compared to most of the middle class in American history. Robert E. Rector wrote that in 1998, if you adjust for inflation, the lowest 20% of the poor had incomes equal to that of the average American household in the early 1970s! This brings up the point of how relative our social judgments can be.

Would you like to respond to this topic? If so, please address one of the talking points below:

1. Were you aware of how dependent our understandings of what constitutes poverty are upon social context? What insights does this afford you about assessing your understandings of other social problems?

2. Since what constitutes poverty has changed dramatically in the last 40 years, do you think the underlying causes of poverty have also changed? Why?

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Empty Nesters Impact on Socialization

April 8, 2009

Some sociologists have noted a correlation or connection between education and family size. Some research suggests that the higher the level of education obtained by a husband and wife, the fewer children they have in their family. Some people in the X generation (people born after 1960) and the millennium generation (those coming to age now) have decided not to have any children at all. These people are called “empty nesters.”

Current sociological theories regarding socialization hold that the family is the key agent of socialization or teaching the rules of society to our young people. Researchers fear that the continual shrinkage of the middle class and lower upper class (what some neo-Marxists call the petty bourgeoisie) might lead to a future society with a different set of values and beliefs.

What do you think? Do you have anything to add to this topic? If so, please pick a talking point below and respond to it:

1. If the middle class and the upper class become smaller, what changes do you think this will cause of the social fabric of American society?

2. What political effects do you think such a demographic shift might have on the country? Are you seeing any of those effects now?

3. What economic effects do you think having a smaller middle and upper class might have on America? Why?

4. Do you think this demographic shift could lead to a form of social evolution that Karl Marx would support? Why?

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