Soc Lecture 10/08/2013
The Working Poor
The Upper Class
Class and Parenting
Identity and Inequality:
Who Is What and Who Gets What?
Race and Ethnicity
Gender and Sexuality
Where your class location is shapes the reality of your everyday life
Critical issue: social reproduction
Various institutions/patterns of interactions that lead the realities of society to continue to be reproduced
The working poor is not the same as the working class
“Working class”: Those employed in skilled and semiskilled manual labor occupations, esp. industrial
manufacturing. [Proletariat] Changed with industrialization decline
“Working poor”: Those who are regularly employed (often in unskilled, servicesector occupations), but
whose wages do not provide enough income to escape poverty.
In the US today it is possible to regularly work and still live below the poverty line/be homeless.
Deindustrialization – factory jobs went away, wages went down dramatically, people faced financial
1996 Welfare Reform Act – Bill Clinton signed into law a welfare reform act. Goal: get people off of welfare,
and out into workforce. Encourage employment among the poor. Shift from “welfare to workfare.”
Philosophy behind this: getting people into workplace would encourage a selfreliance, selfrespect that
comes from steady employment. Moral virtue to engaging in regular work. Hit single mothers really hard. “NickelandDimed”
What everyday life is like if you’re a member of the working poor
Is it possible to get by with unskilled jobs? Survival strategies? Hidden costs? Is Welfare Reform Act
applicable – selfreliance?
Method: Go out and spend a month living as a working poor person. Got a job, tried to find housing, feed
herself… Try it out herself and meet other people who do it.
What were some of the everyday difficulties that Ehrenreich encountered through her research?
Hard to find a job
Couldn’t eat good food
Had to get 2 jobs
Location of house: close but expensive or far away and cheap?
Make herself look less qualified
Boss didn’t treat her well
Had to buy clothes for her job
Stressful work environment
Social reproduction – hard to get out of these circumstances?
Things that kept her coworkers from getting a better lifestyle:
Very minimum wages
Couldn’t afford to move out of their housing
The amount of income that you need in order to meet your basic costs of living without the need for
government assistance or poverty programs
Food, shelter, transportation, health care, child care, education Not the same thing as the poverty line. Significantly above the poverty line.
Poverty line is notoriously outdated. Doesn’t account for regional differences in cost of living.
Don’t just need a job even that gives you minimum wage or poverty line, need a job that gets you to living
“Who Rules America?”
What leads to the rep