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The Rise of the Privilege Epiphany

 

Donald Trump made them realize their dumb luck in life. Now what?

One would expect a column titled “2017 Was the Year I Learned About My White Privilege” to appear in Thought Catalog, the self-indulgent opinion site, or perhaps self-published on Medium. And odds are, the author would be a liberal arts student or recent graduate, their Sociology 101 coursework still fresh in the mind. But in fact, the above piece appeared last month in Foreign Policy, and its author was Max Boot—a military historian, unrepentant Iraq War proponent, and former adviser to John McCain and Mitt Romney. Not a Donald Trump supporter, but hardly a with-it millennial.

It was the president, though, who prompted Boot’s epiphany. While videos of police brutality—and a black woman friend’s account of racial profiling in department stores—contributed to this awakening, “Trump’s victory has revealed that racism and xenophobia are more widespread than I had previously realized,” he wrote. Similarly, the #MeToo moment alerted Boot to the continued existence—even in America, which is not, he notes, Saudi Arabia—of sexism. But there, too, the president is a catalyst: “Trump continues to sit in the Oval Office despite credible allegations of sexual assault from nearly 20 different women.”

Once a mainstay of a certain brand of first-person literature that’s now on its way out, the privilege-epiphany essay is experiencing a mini-revival of sorts. In a Guardian article published the same day as Boot’s confession, titled “‘Check your privilege’ used to annoy me. Now I get it,” English journalist Gaby Hinsliff wrote that “Privilege isn’t reserved for those who went to Eton, and it’s all relative.” Matthew Sears, a classics and ancient history professor at the University of New Brunswick in Canada, joined the trend with a viral year-end thread turned Globe and Mail op-ed that declared, “I’ll start 2018 by recognizing my white privilege.” (Fictional protagonists are also newly privilege-aware: Author Sam Graham-Felsen describes his new book, Green, as “a coming of age novel, but also a coming of awareness novel—about a white kid at a mostly black school who slowly wakes up to his privilege.”)

As a form of rhetorical progressivism, the first-person privilege epiphany is inherently contradictory: It re-centers the already privileged, and only tangentially looks outward. These essays can, depending the subtleties of the author, read more as self-promotional than sincere. But there’s also value in such shifts toward decency, however clumsily expressed. There are many people out there—Trump and his diehard supporters, for starters—who are miles away from even so much as gesturing at humility and self-awareness. If the previously oblivious are listening now, or at least declaring as much, that gives cause for hope that we are not intractably divided by culture wars—that it’s possible to have one’s mind changed, and that it’s a potential source of validation. (Sears, for instance, retweeted a bunch of praise, along with some criticism.) Unlike privilege disclaimers woven into essays by already enlightened writers, a public privilege epiphany seeks out those who might need convincing or desire permission to express views they didn’t always hold.

The current political climate is not especially conducive to changing one’s mind. Nor, for that matter, is online life. On the left, new arrivals to a particular cause or viewpoint are sometimes penalized for having not been attuned to today’s cultural sensitivities in remarks made a decade ago, or even just before Trump. So it may be worth overlooking the drawbacks and at times cringe-inducing quality of the privilege epiphany genre, and view it as a positive step toward ideological flexibility and recognition that for most people can’t be neatly categorized as enlightened or ignorant.

Hinsliff, Boot, and Sears all describe variants of the same conversion process. Boot recalled being “one of those smart-alecky young conservatives who would scoff at the notion of ‘white male privilege.’” Now, he wrote, “I no longer think, as I once did, that ‘political correctness’ is a bigger threat than the underlying racism and sexism that continue to disfigure our society decades after the civil rights and women’s rights movements.”

Hinsliff described overcoming her revulsion to self-righteousness. “There are worse character traits,” she wrote, “than sanctimony.” She didn’t always feel this way: “[W]hen the phrase ‘check your privilege’ began to be bandied around on social media some years ago—as a sort of rough shorthand for ‘you can’t possibly know what you’re talking about, because unlike me, you have never truly suffered’—it grated. I told myself that was because it was invariably deployed by sanctimonious people when losing arguments.” Now, she thinks she resisted the expression out of privileged defensiveness.

Sears, too, detailed a move towards earnestness. Once, he wrote, “I rolled my eyes at every mention of what many call out as today’s ‘campus orthodoxies’—ongoing oppression, systemic racism, sexism and misogyny, micro-aggressions, trigger warnings and any hint that speech could be a form of violence.” But then “I began to see the world and myself differently. I saw that I am extraordinarily privileged. I saw that, though I do work hard, I begin way ahead of others simply by being white. I’m not where I am just because of what I’ve done.”

Each of these essays explains the author’s privilege and awareness thereof. “Whether I realize it or not, I have benefitted from my skin color and my gender—and those of a different gender or sexuality or skin color have suffered because of it,” Boot wrote. “This sounds obvious, but it wasn’t clear to me until recently.” Sears: “Once I acknowledged and weighed the evidence that was right in front of my face, nothing was the same. I began to see the world and myself differently. I saw that I am extraordinarily privileged.”

Only Hinsliff addressed the psychology of privilege self-awareness. Her analysis is helpful but incomplete. She correctly notes “that nobody likes to think of themselves as privileged, with its connotations of pampered ignorance and thoroughly undeserved success.” But she doesn’t follow through and ask whether the defensiveness that the term “privilege” inspires might mean another framework for discussing injustice would be more effective. Instead, Hinsliff doubles down on the importance of getting the privileged to acknowledge their unearned advantages. Even assuming some will do as she suggests, what then? The demonstrated attitudes of privileged people—that is, affluent whites—toward their neighborhoods and schools suggest the problem isn’t so much that the privileged don’t know they’re privileged, but that they wish to stay that way, and for society to allow it. Rather than focusing on privileged people’s self-awareness, it makes sense to look at broader structures that serve as obstacles to good fortune for others.

There are some key differences between these epiphany tales. Boot still considers himself “a classical liberal,” for example, while Sears does not. “I can’t be a classical liberal any more,” he wrote, “because there simply isn’t a level playing field—not in terms of race, educational opportunities, economic resources and so many other factors—that ensures the best ideas are recognized and that effort is fairly rewarded with economic success.” The epiphanies happened at different times—Sears said his dates to five years ago, while Hinsliff’s was just this past the fall—but they all land in this same place. While the authors dwell on their own privilege, what they’ve actually become aware of, on a deeper level, is how society is unfairly structured. But this epiphany is largely meaningless unless it changes one’s behavior. “Like territorial acknowledgments, recognizing privilege must be but the first step,” Sears wrote. “Real action has to follow.”

 

Phoebe Maltz Bovy lives in Toronto, and is the author of The Perils of “Privilege.”

 

By : Phoebe Maltz Bovy
Date : January 8, 2018
Source : New Republic
https://newrepublic.com/article/146522/rise-privilege-epiphany

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Poverty, inequality and discrimination in Latin America

 

Poverty is the deprivation of one’s well-being, is not having a decent home where to take refuge, to be sick and not receive the necessary care, to work in unhealthy conditions, to not have the opportunity to go to school, among many other situations. This implies a significant threat to guaranteeing fundamental rights. In particular, in Latin America and the Caribbean, poverty tends to be closely related to discrimination and inequality. That is why, any poverty reduction policy in the region must recognize these phenomena and propose positive actions to counteract them and not remain neutral before them.

Poverty is a cause and consequence of human rights violations. The impoverished face the fact that they are often unaware of their own rights. They tend to experience a stigmatization, segregation and discrimination cycle that compromises the fulfillment of their rights to equality and a dignified life. In the same way, historically discriminated people tend to be overrepresented in the group of people with lower incomes. This is because poverty dynamics are also mediated by discrimination factors that influence the exclusion of women, Afro-descendants, indigenous people, people with disabilities, LGBT, among others. This results in two things: i) people belonging to minority groups are more likely to fall into poverty circles; ii) a greater lack of protection of the rights of minority groups living in poverty.

For example, the report on multidimensional poverty of Multidimensional Progress: Wellbeing beyond income (2016), indicates that many members of the more than 400 indigenous groups in the region suffer from systemic deficiencies that make it difficult for them to enjoy the same level of protection as residents who are non-indigenous. In Guatemala, non-indigenous children go to school twice as many times as their indigenous peers. In Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru and Mexico, non-indigenous children study between two and three and a half years more than those who are indigenous. Considering the importance of education as a main factor of socio-economic mobility, these limitations entail a serious impact on the right to education of indigenous children with direct repercussions on their civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.

In terms of inequality, the most recent report of the IACHR on Poverty and Human Rights (2017) states that in 2014 in Latin America, 10% of the population accounted for 71% of the total wealth. This in comparison with half of the population, which was in a situation of poverty and had only accumulated 3.2% of total wealth. In that context, and in more specific terms, only 1% of the population owned 40% of the wealth.

Likewise, in the last report by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, The Social Panorama of Latin America 2016, despite the efforts made by governments to reduce inequality, Latin America and the Caribbean continues to be the most unequal region in the world. This coincides with the UNDP report (2016), which states that 10 of the 15 most unequal countries in the world are in the region.

In light of this problem and the trend of wealth concentration, it is essential that the States of the region, at the moment in which human development measures are structured, take into account the risks of diversion of social policy resources and the greater vulnerability of minority groups.

On the one hand, the structuring of more rigorous fiscal controls of public spending and an active participation of the impoverished population could limit the diversion of resources destined to poverty reduction. The limited capacity that this segment of the population has to denounce and/or conduct citizen oversight over public resources destined to social programs facilitates the irregular management of the same. For this reason, it is necessary to make available an effective information system so that everyone is aware of these resources, as well as to implement clear and expeditious procedures for reporting corruption cases. This offers a two-way control system with concrete actions by the State and that commits citizens to contribute to the improvement of their living conditions.

And on the other hand, without having to enter into the debate about what is more serious if poverty discrimination or poverty caused by discrimination, it is essential that measures to reduce poverty take into account the way in which historical discrimination of minorities influences the resource distribution and rights protection. When governments are seeking to reduce poverty based on discrimination and increase access to the enjoyment of rights, policies must also aim to reduce discrimination due to historical factors such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, among others, because these are elements that facilitate the impoverishment of various social groups.
Maryluz is a researcher at the Center for the Study for Justice, Law and Society (Dejusticia).

 

By : Maryluz Barragan
Date : December 18, 2017
Source : Dejusticia
https://www.dejusticiablog.org/new-blog/2017/12/18/poverty-inequality-anddiscriminationin-latin-america

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Why I embrace the term Latinx

 

Latinx – which arises from inadequacies with labels like ‘Hispanic’ and ‘Latino’ – represents an openness that is increasingly under threat

When I first saw the word Latinx – best described as a gender-neutral term to describe US residents of Latin American descent – in print it seemed strange, alien, and unfit for proper pronunciation. But rather than perceiving it as my enemy, I came to embrace its enticing, futurist charms.

The term Latinx arises from a perceived inadequacies of the labels “Hispanic” and “Latino”, which emerged in the civil rights era, around the same time that the term “Negro” gave way to “black”, and then “African American”.

Although Hispano was used earlier, particularly in New York in the early to mid-20th century by migrants from Latin American as a vehicle for advocacy and political organizing, Hispanic was adopted in the 1970s by government bureaucracies, the business community and advertisers and marketers as a way to promote American assimilation while retaining ethnic pride.

Yet many academics and activists, as well as cultural figures, particularly west coast Mexican-Americans, grew to prefer “Latino”. The term Hispanic, they felt, was an attempt to use identification with Spain to create another “whitened” European-American ethnic label. The term Latino, these activists believed, subtly reflected the mixed-race origins of Latin Americans.

More recently, attempts to address the male-centric nature of the masculine “o” suffix created variations like Latino/a, Latina/o, and finally the awkward Latin@, which seized on internet age typography and tried to create a shared male/female space.

The arrival of Latinx coincides with a strong push for eliminating identifiers of gender in language, such as the now ubiquitous (at least among millennials) posting of pronouns to be used when referring to an individual, such as she/her, him/her, and the liberating they/them.

This trend is emblematic of how acknowledging “border spaces” through the sort of women-of-color feminism pioneered by 1970s and 80s Chicanx writers like Gloria Anzaldúa and Cherrie Moraga can transform male-dominated ideas about Latinx identity into broader intersectional sectors of marginalized people. In this way “Latinx” represents a queering of Latino.

Yet of course Latinx has its detractors. An early attack appeared in a student newspaper of Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. It resonates with some grievances I’ve heard when speaking to some of my students at Columbia. Latinx is seen as an attack on the Spanish language in its dismantling of tradition, and this particular post criticizes it as an imposition of US values on Latin American culture, which is based in the Spanish language.

It also mocks the messiness of continually using “x”s in written and oral communication, which is understandable until you realize that saying Latinx is as easy as saying Kleenex.

There’s also a growing debate about whether those of Latin American descent should even identify as a monolithic group at all. Both Hispanic and Latino are terms used by media giants like Univision and major advertisers who have for decades tried to concoct a flattened, deracialized identity to create a loyal pool of voters and consumers.

In 2015, Mark Hugo López of the Pew Hispanic Center argued that research showed: “Hispanics prefer to identify themselves with terms of nationality (Mexican or Cuban or Dominican) rather than pan-ethnic monikers (Hispanic or Latino or even American).”

Similar research shows that even the use of or identification with the Spanish language decreases in most Hispanic groups by the second or third generation, and intermarriage with non-Latinx groups is at around 25%, second only to Asian Americans.

While this second factor may be a threat to the diminishing of Latinx identification, the first one does not erase the fact that Latinx identification is primarily about non-binary racial and gender identification. That doesn’t mean that we don’t see ourselves in terms of our race and sexuality, which although fluid, powerfully symbolizes difference from the American norm.

I embrace Latinx because of its futurist implications. Like superheroes of color and the possibilities inherent in girls and everyone else who code, Latinx represents an openness that is increasingly under threat in a political climate that is most intent on drawing borders, keeping outsiders out, and using violence to keep it that way.

Yet because I am aware of how the strategic essentialism of Latinx is not the be all and end all of who we are, I think it’s important that we nurture and continue to redefine who we are as Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Dominicans, Colombians, Venezuelans, Central Americans, and beyond to the furthest reaches of the Southern Cone.

It’s not easy to hold on to such seemingly opposite intentions, but although it’s not usually part of our national conversation, it points to a future America that might be.

 

Ed Morales is the author of the forthcoming book Latinx: The New Force in American Politics and Culture.

 

By : Ed Morales
Date : January 8, 2018
Source : The Guardian
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jan/08/why-i-embrace-the-term-latinx

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Redistributing wealth a better way

 

Mr Edmund Khoo Kim Hock believes that redistributive taxation will weaken business initiative and make workers lazy (Taxing the rich more is not the solution to income divide; Forum Online, Jan 5).

He implies that lower taxes will cause firms’ profits to “trickle down” through investment, raising the living standards of low-income individuals.

“Trickle-down economics” does not work. Places where such policies have been implemented (for example, the United States, Chile and Hong Kong) have seen massive social inequality, poor infrastructure and public services, and economic stagnation.

In fact, according to economists, the US economy performs better and more equitably under more redistributive Democrat administrations than under the laissez-faire Republicans.

It is true that excessive taxes are bad for business. Yet, nobody is suggesting that Singapore impose draconian tax rates.

Singapore already has one of the lowest tax regimes in the world, with a top rate of around 20 per cent.

A small to medium increase in redistributive taxes will not make Singapore less economically competitive.

As long as we maintain our tax rate below that of our competitors, non-economic factors such as good education and political stability will keep investors in Singapore.

Weaker consumption among the rich is also unlikely to damage Singapore’s economy.

Singapore’s population is small, meaning that domestic consumption is not a strong driver of its economic growth. A reduction in spending from such a small section of its population is unlikely to affect economic performance significantly.

Moreover, lower-income consumers have a higher marginal propensity to spend than high-income consumers, rendering them a more significant engine of consumption-led growth. Redistribution would thus strengthen rather than weaken consumption-led growth.

It is also untrue that redistributing wealth will result in lazy workers who are unwilling to retrain.

Many of the most productive workforces in the world, such as Switzerland, Germany and the Nordic states, levy much higher taxes than Singapore, which has faced challenges in raising productivity.

Redistribution schemes such as universal basic income can actually encourage workers to retrain, as they enable workers to support themselves during the retraining process.

Income inequality undermines meritocracy and social cohesion. The failure of political leaders to remedy this situation explains the election of populist politicians by resentful low-income voters worldwide. Singapore must arrest this situation rapidly via redistribution to prevent a descent into populism.

 

By : Ng Qi Siang
Date : January 9, 2018
Source : The Straits Times
http://www.straitstimes.com/forum/letters-in-print/redistributing-wealth-a-better-way

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Combating Africa’s Inequalities

 

According to a new study by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), South Africa has the highest recorded level of income inequality in the world. And in this, South Africa is not unusual among African nations.

Of the 19 most unequal countries in the world, 10 are in Africa, according to the UNDP’s Income Inequality Trends in sub-Saharan Africa, a report released in New York during the opening week of the UN General Assembly in September 2017.

Ernest Harsch reports for Africa Renewal:

Nelson Mandela, shortly after becoming the first democratically elected president of South Africa, spoke to both his countrymen and women—indeed, for Africans everywhere—when he declared, “We must work together to ensure the equitable distribution of wealth, opportunity and power in our society.”

As he spoke those words in 1996, South Africa was just emerging from a racist apartheid past in which non-whites, more than three-quarters of the population, were not only denied the vote but also denied land ownership, skilled jobs, and most basic services.

The country’s poverty rate, after a brief decline, has been on the rebound since 2015. While millions of South Africans have improved their educational and job prospects, overall income inequality in the country remains stubbornly entrenched.

According to a new study by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), South Africa has the highest recorded level of income inequality in the world. And in this, South Africa is not unusual among African nations.

Of the 19 most unequal countries in the world, 10 are in Africa, according to the UNDP’s Income Inequality Trends in sub-Saharan Africa, a report released in New York during the opening week of the UN General Assembly this past September.

While many countries in the region, such as Cote d’Ivoire, Mauritius and Rwanda have registered remarkable economic performance over the past decade and a half, lifting millions out of extreme poverty and making schooling and health care available to larger shares of their populations, others have lagged.

One obstacle to higher incomes for all has been the region’s entrenched economic and social inequalities. The contrast between the visible wealth of elites and the daily misery of most ordinary people makes the disparities seem unjust, driving popular anger and contributing to protest and rebellion.

As President Hage Geingob of Namibia—a country that inherited the highest levels of income inequality in Africa when it gained independence from apartheid-era South Africa in 1990—told the UN General Assembly, “As long as the wealth of the country is disproportionately in the hands of a few, we cannot have lasting peace and stability.”

Radical shift

Until recently, income inequality received only sporadic attention from development practitioners and policy makers. Before the 1990s they focused mainly on stimulating economic growth. It eventually became clearer that growing markets alone does not necessarily benefit the poor and that excessive liberalization can in fact hurt them.

When the international community adopted the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000, their focus shifted more towards anti-poverty measures and improvements in social well-being.

Poverty subsequently fell in many African countries experiencing economic growth. Yet despite generally robust growth, nearly half the continent’s people still live on less than $1.25 a day.

Studies have shown that where there is less inequality, the benefits of growth reach wider sectors of the population. In more unequal nations, however, the rich garner the biggest share and the poor get little.

That realization underlay the 2015 negotiations over the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The global goals call not only for ending poverty, but also for reducing inequalities within and among nations. The UNDP terms this a “radical shift” intended to address the “last mile of exclusion” that prevents many people from improving their lives.

In analyzing income inequality in Africa, the UNDP report focuses on 29 sub-Saharan countries (which account for 80% of Africa’s population) for which there is adequate data on household consumption.

It shows that between 1991 and 2011, 17 of those countries managed to reduce their degree of income inequality. But the remaining dozen registered an increase in income inequality over the same period.

That divergence reflects the historical, economic, social and political factors affecting income inequality in each country.

Countries with higher—and rising—income inequality are mainly in Southern and Central Africa; they have capital-intensive oil and mining sectors with limited employment or are former settler societies that still have large landholdings.

Countries with declining income inequality, most of which are in West Africa, generally started out with lower levels of inequality and have predominantly smallholder agricultural sectors in which many people stand to benefit from improvements in productivity.

Causes of inequalities

Income inequalities in different countries differ by degree, but the more important distinction is the factors that shape them. The root causes of inequality are rarely the same from country to country and may include restricted access to land, capital and markets; inequitable tax systems; excessive vulnerability to unfavourable global markets; rampant corruption; and the patrimonial allocation of public resources.

Although gender inequalities exist in all countries and are particularly severe in Africa, they are generally underestimated in most standard measures, which rely on household income or consumption data. Such estimates tend to assume equal spending powers among all family members.

While some countries have seen efforts to reduce economic disparities, others have been marked by opposition to such efforts by “incumbent elites,” according to researchers cited in the report.

The marginalization of certain geographical regions or the social and political exclusion of minority ethnic and religious groups can bring especially explosive consequences, the new UNDP report says, contributing to unrest and even armed conflict.

No single solution

Because of the complex, multidimensional factors influencing inequality, “There is no one ‘silver bullet’ to address its challenge,” observes Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, UNDP’s assistant administrator and director of its Africa bureau. “Multiple responses are required.”

In this issue of Africa Renewal, we examine many existing responses to income inequalities, including inequalities in education, those affecting a vulnerable group (albinos), those relating to business leadership, and those affecting Africa’s trade with other regions.

Whatever a country’s specific history and circumstances, a number of measures have proven especially fruitful in reducing inequalities across the region: increasing productivity among small-scale farmers, ensuring women’s access to land, reversing urban favouritism in services and economic opportunities, promoting labour-intensive industries, setting minimum wages, strengthening capacities to keep the wealthy from evading taxes, introducing strong social protection programmes and ending all forms of exclusion.

Ultimately, such efforts are intended to ensure that all Africans are able to live productive and fulfilling lives and to uphold the SDGs’ pledge to “leave no one behind.”

 

By : Abdul Rashid Thomas
Date : January 9, 2018
Source : The Sierra Leone Telegraph

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Inequality Comes to Asia

 

As income inequality becomes increasingly entrenched, it can undermine social cohesion and spur political instability. To avoid such an outcome, Asian countries need to change the rules of the game, providing opportunities for youth, regardless of their background, to ascend the income ladder.

SEOUL – From China to India, Asian countries’ rapid economic expansion has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty in recent decades. Yet the income distribution has lately worsened, with inequality now potentially even more severe in Asia than in the developed economies of the West.

From 1990 to 2012, the net Gini coefficient – a common measure of (post-tax and post-transfer) income inequality – increased dramatically in China, from 0.37 to 0.51 (zero signifies perfect equality and one represents perfect inequality). It rose in India as well, from 0.43 to 0.48. Even the four “Asian Tigers” – Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan – which had previously grown “with equity,” have lately faced rising inequality. In South Korea, for example, the share of income held by the top 10% rose from 29% in 1995 to 45% in 2013.

This trend is being driven largely by the same forces that have fueled Asia’s economic growth in recent decades: unbridled globalization and technological progress. Increasingly open borders have made it easier for businesses to find the cheapest locations for their operations. In particular, China’s entry into global markets has put downward pressure on the wages of low-skill production workers elsewhere.

Meanwhile, new technologies raise demand for skilled workers, while reducing demand for their less-skilled counterparts – a trend that fuels the expansion of the wage gap between skilled and unskilled. Capital owners also reap major benefits from technological progress. In short, as the Nobel laureate Angus Deaton has acknowledged, by creating new opportunities for a certain group of millions of people, while subjecting an enormous number of people to wage stagnation, unemployment, and economic precarity, globalization and technological innovation have helped to widen the gap between the haves and have-nots.

Exacerbating this trend, income inequality often goes hand in hand with inequality of opportunity. With limited educational and economic prospects, talented youth from disadvantaged backgrounds end up running in place. As inequality becomes increasingly entrenched, it can erode the consensus in favor of pro-growth economic policies, undermine social cohesion, and spur political instability.

To avoid such a future, Asian countries need to change the rules of the game, providing opportunities for youth, whatever their background, to ascend the income ladder. Market mechanisms are not enough to achieve this. Governments must take action, complementing their pro-growth policies with policies aimed at ensuring that the gains are shared much more equally and sustainably.

To be sure, some Asian governments have been attempting to tackle inequality with progressive redistribution policies. For example, South Korea’s government recently announced that it will raise the minimum wage next year by 16.4%, to 7,530 won ($6.70) per hour, and up to 55% above its current level by 2020. It will also raise tax rates for the highest income earners and companies.

But, while such measures have strong public support, they could end up hurting the economy, by reducing business investment, for example, and impeding job creation. In fact, the first rule of thumb in combating today’s inequality should be that simplistic egalitarian policies are not a permanent solution – and may, in fact, have adverse long-term consequences.

Consider the Venezuelan government’s decision, in the late 1990s, to implement populist redistributive policies, without addressing the economy’s overreliance on the oil industry and lack of competitiveness. That choice has pushed the country to the edge of bankruptcy, while fueling large-scale social unrest and political turmoil. Venezuela’s national catastrophe should serve as a warning to everyone.

The best way to enhance both equity and growth is effective development of human capital, which not only supports higher incomes today, but also ensures intergenerational mobility tomorrow. This requires enhanced social safety nets and redistributive tax-and-transfer programs, as well as access to quality education for all.

The good news is that many East Asian economies are already investing more in public education, in order to expand opportunities for all population groups. But more must be done.

Asia needs to improve further the quality of its higher education as well, reforming curricula to ensure that young people are getting the knowledge and skills they need to prepare them for the labor market. Meanwhile, the labor market should be made more efficient and flexible, so that it can match people with the right jobs and reward them adequately. As technology continues to transform the economy, life-long education and training is needed to enable workers to keep up.

Promoting the participation of girls and women in education and economic activity is also important. Furthermore, governments should create an environment that fosters small innovative startups. And, of course, they should sustain pro-growth policies that boost overall job creation and reduce unemployment, while rejecting barriers to trade or innovation.

In today’s charged political environment, there is a growing temptation to reject globalization and embrace populist redistribution policies that could end up doing far more harm than good. Asia’s leaders must do better if they are to realize the true promise of “growth with equity.”

 

Lee Jong-Wha, Professor of Economics and Director of the Asiatic Research Institute at Korea University, served as Chief Economist and Head of the Office of Regional Economic Integration at the Asian Development Bank and was a senior adviser for international economic affairs to former President Lee Myung-bak of South Korea. His most recent book, co-authored with Harvard’s Robert J. Barro, is Education Matters: Global Schooling Gains from the 19th to the 21st Century

 

By : Lee Jhong-Wha
Date : November 20, 2017
Source : Project Syndicate (https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/inequality-growth-asia-policies-by-lee-jong-wha-2017-11?a_la=english&a_d=5a129e7e78b6c75d10007960&a_m=&a_a=click&a_s=&a_p=homepage&a_li=inequality-growth-asia-policies-by-lee-jong-wha-2017-11&a_pa=curated&a_ps=)

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Storms hit poorer people harder, from Superstorm Sandy to Hurricane Maria

 

The ferocious “frankenstorm” known as Sandy that ripped through greater New York City five years ago remains one for the record books. Like this year’s hurricane season, it racked up tens of billions of dollars in economic damages.

Superstorm Sandy had another close, yet underappreciated, similarity to this year’s hurricanes: less affluent groups of people suffered more, both in the initial damage and recovery.

An analysis by a team I led at Stony Brook University shows that Sandy’s destructive path across Long Island, from Brooklyn to the Hamptons, was not as even-handed as media coverage often made it seem, both in its initial impact and people’s recovery.

The storm season of 2017 has already left behind an even more dramatic version of this story: Following Hurricane Harvey, Houston quickly switched water and electricity back on and emptied most emergency shelters. Meanwhile, several weeks after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, much of the island is still in “survival mode.” Both hurricane seasons expose the close ties between severe weather events and social inequality.

Uneven impact

Though no longer a hurricane when it hit the New York region, Sandy proved big and powerful enough to stir record rises in ocean levels, vying with Long Island’s worst recorded storm of 1938. While high winds brought down trees on cars, homes and power lines across the island’s interior, flooding brought the most damage. Coastline communities bore the brunt of the storm.

In the wake of an onslaught that sounded “like a jet plane was landing on your street,” Rockaway resident Richard Blanck found himself up to his ankles in water on his front porch. In nearby Long Beach, “those few residents in the poor neighborhoods of town who owned cars saw them swallowed up, and disabled, by the salty water.” Farther from New York City, on Long Island, 100 Mastic Beach residents had to be rescued from flooded homes.

All three of these communities, among the hardest hit by Sandy, lie along Long Island’s south shore, which has long drawn lower- as well as middle-income residents. This coastline is also more vulnerable to storms sweeping up from warmer waters. By contrast, since its early 20th-century reputation as a “Gold Coast,” the more insulated north shore remains more uniformly well-to-do and white.

We looked at where people who registered significant damage with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) following Sandy lived. Mapping that data, it was clear the northern coastline was affected relatively little, compared to the south-facing and less wealthy parts of Long Island where people reported higher damage.

Racial dimension

After World War II, more city-ward shoreline communities such as the Rockaways, Coney Island and Long Beach fell on hard times. Robert Moses and other planners then sited public or publicly subsidized housing there, as blacks and Latinos shut out of much suburban housing also moved nearby.

So when Sandy’s largest storm surges washed in – 17 ½ feet high in Long Beach and 14 feet in parts of the Rockaways – African-Americans bore an inordinate share of the decimation.

One report three years after the storm recounted the experience of Melissa Miller in Long Beach, whose apartment in the Channel Park Homes development was inundated with five inches of sewage-infested water. Nearly every home in Long Beach was flooded, and two-thirds suffered “heavy or strong damage,” as did 20 percent of those in nearby Far Rockaways, according to state statistics. Our investigation showed her experience was shared by others in publicly subsidized homes, many of them with African-American residents.

Latino communities, though slightly underrepresented in the most damaged areas, joined African-American counterparts in watching many of their local schools undergo flooding. As our geographic analysis demonstrated, the inundation of schools proved widespread along the south shore from central Nassau westward through Queens and Brooklyn.

But along the southeastern and northern shorelines of Long Island, hardly any schools flooded, even in the most stricken communities. More affluent Bayville, in northern Nassau, suffered an 11-foot storm surge, but its schools, situated on higher, dryer ground, lay out of harm’s way.

Less well-off white communities like Coney Island suffered too, and not just from flooding. Breezy Point, for instance, lost 10 percent of its housing, 135 homes from an electrical fire as well as 220 from the flood. Eastward along the south shore, from Nassau out through Suffolk counties, we found that wealthier communities weathered Sandy’s waves better than poorer ones such as Mastic Beach.

Known by the late 20th century as “the poor man’s Westhampton Beach,” Mastic Beach had long offered a cheaper version of shoreline property, in part because the land on which it lies was so uniformly close to sea level, near the water table. So when a Sandy surge washed in, 1,000 of its homes were flooded, many of them by both seawater and cesspool wastes. Next door, the original Westhampton Beach, hillier as well as more affluent, experienced far less damage from the storm.

Clearly Westhampton Beach’s lesser vulnerability did not just stem from its higher ground. Westhampton Beach has lower housing density compared to Mastic Beach and longstanding zoning for residential buildings, making this and other affluent areas better able to withstand and absorb floodwaters. Even before Sandy, Westhampton Beach had also long pushed to preserve dunes and other topography to mitigate surges from Sandy and other storms.

Still waiting

If disadvantaged residents and communities suffered more from the storm’s initial blow, they also faced greater obstacles in the struggle to repair or rebuild.

In a better-off north shore town like Bayville, 86 percent of those with severely damaged homes had flood insurance, nearly three times more than the 30 percent in Coney Island/Brighton Beach. Further drilling into FEMA data showed that in damaged areas of Brooklyn with predominantly African-American residents, only 14 percent of homeowners were insured. Those without insurance had to await FEMA or New York state grants, which often took years to arrive.

Over the last five years, FEMA as well as New York Rising, the state’s rehabilitation program, have accomplished much across the island, but also frustrated many Sandy victims with the slowness and paltriness of their aid. That only two-thirds of homeowners in New York Rising have completed their repairs five years after the storm also means that a third have not.

And while Bayville was beginning its third phase of rebuilding in 2016, those in Long Beach’s Channel Park Homes still awaited adequate repairs by the city housing authority. As reported by the group ERASE Racism, Melissa Miller had received only a new refrigerator and some replacement drywall, along with a “sanitizing” that still left her apartment with a nauseating smell.

Parallels in Harvey and Maria

Sandy left a plethora of destruction in its wake, from its 147 deaths to approximately US$65 billion in damages. It also exposed vulnerabilities that were much longer in coming: communities in low-lying areas lacking sufficient infrastructure and insurance for its floods.

We’ve seen this general pattern play out this year as well. As with Hurricanes Irma and Jose – and with a majority of the American citizens in a Hurricane Maria-stricken Puerto Rico – less well-off communities have already shouldered the severest burdens, whether because of lower incomes or racio-ethnic origins or both.

Now more than ever, we need a nationwide conversation on ways our coastal landscapes have developed so that our most vulnerable citizens are now at greater risk from such massive storms. Officials need to find more reliable ways of illuminating problems faced by the less advantaged, and to ensure these are addressed as quickly and effectively as those of the better-off.

Altering these patterns will be difficult but ever more urgent, since future hurricanes are expected to grow in scope and strength.

What Sandy’s inequalities show is that around America’s largest metropolis as much as in other corners of our nation and planet, the battle against global warming is also a battle for environmental justice.

 

Contributors to this project from Stony Brook University include Elaine Cash, Armani Garrick, Stephen Henry, Kara Maroney, Latira Walker and Matthew Walker; Sung Gheel Jang, director of Stony Brook’s Geospatial Center; Paul St. Denis in Stony Brook’s Teaching, Learning Lab, and Technology Lab: also Randy Dible and Julia Clarke.

 

By : Chris Sellers (Professor of History, Stony Brook University (The State University of New York)
Date : November 20, 2017
Source : The Conversation (https://theconversation.com/storms-hit-poorer-people-harder-from-superstorm-sandy-to-hurricane-maria-87658)

Posted in Latest Post, Natural Disasters, Social and Economic Inequalities | Leave a comment

What can Britain learn from the US on links between economic distress and poor health?

 

Social angst contributes to ill health; there is much that can be done locally to combat this, but government action is needed too

Theresa May, in her first speech as prime minister, stood on the steps of Downing Street and referred to the glaring injustice of gaps in life expectancy and declared her intention to solve it by governing for everyone. I had a moment of hope for concerted action to increase health equity. That’s not looking bright at the moment; the government’s attention is elsewhere.

For many young people in Britain today – what with student debts, rental costs, the decline in home ownership, the gig economy and the economic uncertainties of Brexit – times are challenging.

A 15-year-old boy expects to be immortal, but evidence shows that expectation is less justified in the UK than in more than a score of other countries. The probability that a 15-year-old boy will die before his 60th birthday is 85 out of 1,000 in the UK. Is that a lot? It is higher than the best, Switzerland, at 61 per 1,000.

The UK ranks 22nd among all 185 countries for which the World Health Organisation reports this measure. Not terrible, but worse than Spain, Italy, Malta, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, the Maldives, the Nordic countries, the Netherlands and Japan.

My colleagues and I at University College London’s Institute of Health Equity recently drew attention to the fact that the rise of life expectancy in the UK has stalled – a much more marked slowdown than in other European countries. Most of that levelling off is because of deaths at older ages.

I want here to focus on younger adults. You may ask why I worry about 61 in Switzerland compared with 85 in the UK. It seems like a small difference. But these figures represent something deeper: the quality of social conditions, how we are doing as a society. In the UK, we are not doing so well.

The US is doing worse. It ranks 44th on the probability that a 15-year-old boy will die before his 60th birthday. Mostly, this is not due to healthcare issues. The US spends more on healthcare, per person, than any other country, but has a disastrous level of health for young and middle-aged adults.

It is worth focusing on the US because it may have lessons for the UK. Anne Case and Angus Deaton of Princeton University recently updated their 2015 report showing that there has been a big rise in mortality rates among non-Hispanic whites; a rise that that was not seen in Hispanics or African Americans. The causes: poisonings from drugs and alcohol – in part, caused by medical care, because of over-prescription of opioids; suicides; and chronic liver disease, which is commonly alcohol-related. This adds to the toll of violent deaths. Medical care will not address the underlying social angst that gives rise to these causes of death.

Two important features of this US mortality in non-Hispanic whites have lessons for the UK. First, the fewer the years of education, the steeper the mortality increase, thus contributing to increase in health inequalities.

Second, Shannon Monnat of Penn State University looked at the geographic distribution of deaths from drugs, alcohol and suicide, and found that the greater the economic distress of an area, the higher the mortality rate. Monnat found, in the industrial midwest particularly, the higher the rate of these deaths the greater the 2016 vote for Trump, compared with Romney four years earlier. Trump didn’t cause these deaths, but these deaths may have caused Trump. More precisely, economic distress led both to death by drugs, alcohol and suicide and a greater likelihood of voting Trump.

In the UK we do not have the same appalling toll of drug and alcohol deaths, but we do see higher mortality in areas of economic distress. People in those areas were more likely to vote Brexit – perhaps prompted by the same dissatisfactions that led to the Trump vote in the US.

There is, though, much that can and is being done at local level. In London, for example, there has been a sharp reduction in inequalities between children from poor families and the average in early child development and educational performance.

Coventry has become a “Marmot city”. It has taken the recommendations from my 2010 health inequalities review, Fair Society, Healthy Lives, and is implementing the recommendations.

Elsewhere, in addition to dedicated doctors and nurses, occupational therapists are supporting older people to remain independent at home. In the West Midlands and Merseyside, fire services are, as they put it, improving lives to save lives; they use their time and community commitment to get young people active, look after their homes, support older people and engage with improving people’s social lives.

None of this should let central government off the hook. We need an end to austerity, a reversal of plans to make the tax and benefit system less progressive, and real attention to regional inequalities. But the action of dedicated professionals at local level is an inspiring example of what can be done.

 

Michael Marmot is professor of epidemiology at University College London and director of the UCL Institute of Health Equity. He will be speaking at the King’s Fund annual conference on 29 and 30 November 2017.

 

By : Michael Marmot
Date : November 17, 2017
Source : The Guardian (https://www.theguardian.com/healthcare-network/2017/nov/17/what-can-britain-learn-from-the-us-on-links-between-economic-distress-and-poor-health)

Posted in Health, Latest Post, Social and Economic Inequalities | Leave a comment

Inequality’s Deep Roots – The History News of the Week

 

The biggest history news stories of the last seven days, including an archaeological study into inequality that has an ominous warning for the present, the revelation that what is now Madrid was once arid savanna, and a rethink on the chronology of the Neanderthals.

Inequality Started with the Rise of Agriculture

New research claims that the rise of economic inequality in human societies can be traced all the way back to the dawn of agriculture.

Published in the journal Nature, the research involved academics from fourteen different institutions, and was led by Tim Kohler from Washington State University (WSU). The findings have profound implications for modern societies, the authors believe.

“Inequality has a lot of subtle and potentially pernicious effects on societies,” Kohler explained.

The researchers based their findings on the Gini coefficient, a commonly used measure of inequality developed over a century ago by Italian statistician and sociologist Corrado Gini. On this system, a country with total wealth equality would have a Gini coefficient of zero, while a country with all the wealth concentrated in one household would have a Gini Coefficient of one.

House sizes were compared at 63 different archaeological sites, and the researchers used this data to assign Gini coefficients. It was found that hunter-gatherer societies typically had lower wealth disparities, with a median Gini of .17. This is likely because their nomadic lifestyles would have made wealth accumulation difficult, and passing it on to future generations even more so.

Small-scale, low intensity farmers (horticulturalists) had a median Gini of .27, while large scale agricultural societies had a median Gini of .35. One remarkable observation by Kohler’s team is that inequality continued to rise in the Old World, but plateaued in the New World. According to Kohler, this is down to the ability of Old World societies “to literally harness big domesticated mammals like cattle and eventually horse and water buffalo.”

Draft animals, which were not available in the New World, let rich farmers till more land and expand into new areas. This increased their wealth while ultimately creating a class of landless peasants.

“These processes increased inequality by operating on both ends of the wealth distribution, increasing the holdings of the rich while decreasing the holdings of the poor,” the researchers write in their study.

Bronze metallurgy and a mounted warrior elite further increased the Gini coefficient in the Old World, allowing some individuals to live in massive houses and make territorial conquests, the benefits of which were inherited by their descendants.

The researchers’ models put the highest Gini numbers in the ancient Old World at .59, close to that of contemporary Greece’s .56 and Spain’s .58. It is well short of China’s .73 and the United States .80, a 2000 figure cited in the Nature paper. The 2016 Allianz Global Wealth Report puts the U.S. Gini at .81 and Kohler said in a WSU press release he has seen the U.S. Gini reported as high as .85, “which is probably the highest wealth inequality for any developed country right now.”

For Kohler, the current high Gini number in the US should be a cause for concern. “People need to be aware that inequality can have deleterious effects on health outcomes, on mobility, on degree of trust, on social solidarity–all these things,” he said in a WSU statement. “We’re not helping ourselves by being so unequal.”

Kohler has documented four periods of growing inequality among the ancient Pueblo people of the American Southwest, all of which ended in violence and greater equality. The last of these was particularly dramatic – coinciding with the complete depopulating of the Mesa Verde area.

“In each case, you see not just this decline in Gini scores, but we also see an increase in violence that accompanies that decline,” Kohler said. “We could be concerned in the United States, that if Ginis get too high, we could be inviting revolution, or we could be inviting state collapse. There’s only a few things that are going to decrease our Ginis dramatically.”

14 Million Years Ago, Madrid Was a Desert

A new study claims that the central Iberian Peninsula, an area that covered what is now Madrid, was an arid savanna during the middle Miocene period.

The research, led by the Complutense University of Madrid and published in the journal PLOS ONE, compared mammal assemblages from different localities in Africa and South Asia with those that inhabited the Iberian central area 14 million years ago.

Through paleontological studies of the fossil vertebrate remains found at the Somosaguas site in Madrid, the researchers have been able to infer the environment that existed there. The central premise behind the research is that the body size of every species is largely influenced by the environmental conditions of their habitat. Elephants in humid places such as Asian jungles, for instance, are smaller than those living in dry places like African savannas.

“Based on this premise, the distribution of sizes within a mammal community can offer us valuable information about its climatic context”, explains Iris Menéndez, a researcher at the Department of Paleontology of the UCM and the Institute of Geosciences (UCM and CSIC).

From their analysis, the palaeontologists have inferred that the centre of the Iberian Peninsula witnessed ‘a very arid tropical climate with a high precipitation seasonality’. After a brief wet period, the annual dry season could last up to ten months. “These results confirm the previous inferences on the savanna environment of Somosaguas in the Miocene, but placing this habitat at their driest estimated, within the limits between the savanna and the desert”, says Menéndez.

Climatic parameters from more than 60 modern day Asian and African sites were compiled as a point of comparison for the study.

“For this purpose, we made a compilation of information on mammalian fauna lists, their body sizes, and climatic parameters for these localities, such as temperatures and precipitation. Based on this data, we developed statistical models suitable for the inference of different climatic parameters in the past”, explained the UCM researcher.

“We included the information on the 26 mammal species found in the Somosaguas site, which allowed us to infer the environment by comparison with the extant assemblages”.


Neanderthals Lived in Spain for 3,000 Years Longer Than Thought

Neanderthals survived in Spain long after they had died out every else, new research claims, suggesting our extinct cousins lived in Spain 3,000 years longer than is traditionally believed.

According to the international team of researchers who carried out the study, the findings suggest that the process of modern human populations absorbing Neanderthal populations through interbreeding was not a regular, gradual wave of advance but a “stop-and-go, punctuated, geographically uneven history.”

Over a period of ten years the researchers excavated three new sites in southern Spain, where they unearthed evidence of Neanderthal materials from as recently as 37,000 years ago.

“Technology from the Middle Paleolithic in Europe is exclusively associated with the Neanderthals,” said Dr. João Zilhão, from the University of Barcelona and lead author of the study. “In three new excavation sites, we found Neanderthal artefacts dated to thousands of years later than anywhere else in Western Europe. Even in the adjacent regions of northern Spain and southern France the latest Neanderthal sites are all significantly older.”

The Middle Paleolithic spanned from 300,000 to 30,000 years ago. It is widely acknowledged that during this time, anatomically modern humans started to move out of Africa and assimilate coeval Eurasian populations, including Neanderthals, through interbreeding.

“We believe that the stop-and-go, punctuated, uneven mechanism we propose must have been the rule in human evolution, which helps explaining why Paleolithic material culture tends to form patterns of geographically extensive similarity while Paleolithic genomes tend to show complex ancestry patchworks,” Dr. Zilhão said.

Dr. Zilhão believes that discovering and analysing new Neanderthal sites is the key to understanding the pattern of human evolution, and the true fate of the Neanderthals.

“There is still a lot we do not know about human evolution and, especially, about the Neanderthals,” said Dr. Zilhão. “Our textbook ideas about Neanderthals and modern humans have been mostly derived from finds in France, Germany and Central Europe, but during the Ice Ages these were peripheral areas: probably as much as half of the Paleolithic people who ever lived in Europe were Iberians. Ongoing research has begun to bear fruit, and I have no doubt that there is more to come.”

The study has been published in the journal Heliyon.

 

Posted by : Daryl Worthington
Date : November 19, 2017
Source : New Historian (http://www.newhistorian.com/inequalitys-deep-roots-history-news-week/8413/)

Posted in Latest Post, Social and Economic Inequalities | Leave a comment

How People Get Ahead Despite Difficult Circumstances

 

Researchers have found that social mobility – people getting ahead in life compared to where they start – has recently become more difficult for many groups. Those living in areas of concentrated poverty find it especially hard to break through barriers created by poor schools, substandard neighborhoods or public housing, and missing job opportunities. Immigrants to the United States have, however, overcome such barriers and have found ways to get ahead. I spent three years studying Latin-American immigrant women living in public housing in East Boston and South Boston. I discovered that most of those in my study were getting ahead – and I wanted to learn how they did it. My investigation allowed me to point to five factors that, taken together, enable social mobility in challenging circumstances. Those most likely to get ahead, I find, are self-starters who see themselves as struggling immigrants, enjoy supportive social ties, and reach out through networks that link them to other, dissimilar people and communities. Each of these factors can be elaborated and illustrated from my research interviews.

Self-Starters Who See Themselves as Engaged in Struggle

Self-propelling people know how to negotiate networks to get ahead, as was evident for all the socially mobile women I studied. Consider Camila, for example, a second-generation Dominican in South Boston who told me about a time when she was very angry about a situation at work. She was given an evaluation that did not include information she had been asked to provide in a previous self-assessment, and she was told to sign an evaluation that did not properly describe her actual responsibilities. The omitted information included the training of all new cashiers, head tellers, and the assistant manager; indeed, she was still a teller, yet was troubleshooting for all the other tellers at the branch. “I asked to speak to the manager and instead she had me go through the assistant manager. Why, why can’t she just deal with me directly? How am I going to advance if what I do is not documented? She added the missing information and “I told them I wouldn’t sign it unless it was included or they discussed this with me.” Camila “signed the evaluation once they told me that they would increase her grade from three to five, just one behind the Head Teller.” Camila was certainly an example of a self-propelling person in action, and I found others like her.

Similarly, I found that socially mobile self-starters tended to see themselves as struggling immigrants. As one of my informants put it, “my parents sacrificed to bring us here so that we could have a better future.” This outlook helped people work ever harder in order to live up to the sacrifices and expectations of their parents.

Social Support

Those who get ahead do so within a broad network of supporters. Julia, a second-generation Salvadoran in East Boston was working and going to college. As a young mother, she relied on “an army” of family members to put together a patchwork of childcare for Bobby, her son. This “army” included her mother and stepfather, an aunt and an uncle and Bobby’s father and his family. At one point, Julia’s mother went as far as to quit her part time job in order to be home for Bobby in the afternoons after Julia found out that her uncle had hit Bobby while taking care of him. Bobby’s father and his family moved further away and this placed limits on their availability for childcare.

When asked why there were so many people willing to help her, she replied that “they love him (Bobby) and they know that I have to work…they know that I am not out partying…I am very lucky to have such supportive family…living with my family keeps me from having to pay for childcare and housing…plus I rely on my mother, she supports me and gives me a lot of emotional help…like, when one of us comes home after having a bad day and stuff…I know I count on my mother a lot but she counts on me as well.”

Social Leverage in Ethnic Communities

Those who get ahead make active use of all supportive ties in their networks. Josefa, a first-generation Afro-Honduran woman in South Boston found out that there are people with information about better jobs among those in the lowest paid janitorial workforce. Josefa had limited English language skills and she was working without benefits in a modest hotel when she learned about her current job in an upscale hotel through a weak tie — a coworker. As Josefa explained: “There was this Bosnian man…he tells me that I am young and can speak better English and that I should get out of that dead-end job and go to the [upscale hotel] where they are hiring. This job is giving me many opportunities, I have to speak English…I also get to meet so many people…there are so many things to do around there.”

In effect, this co-worker and fellow immigrant became a leveraging bridge connecting Josefa to a different type of employment, opening new opportunities for her. For the first time, she had access to private health insurance, paid vacation, holidays and overtime in a unionized workplace. Through a job-based credit union, Josefa was also able to develop a line of credit and get her own banking account; and her new job helped Josefa improve her English skills and exposed her to a diverse group of people in her busy and trendy neighborhood.

Making the Most of Ties to Different People

Beyond relying on fellow ethnics, those who get ahead also use ties to other communities. When Camila was younger and living in South Boston, Sister Magdalena, an Irish-American nun, helped her family get access to resources in South Boston. As Camila explained, “She would come to the house to let us know about programs…Then she is the one that got me into the Young Entrepreneurs club…it was a club that taught us how to produce and market products. It was just me and my brother and all the rest were white kids…We learned to make jewelry and then took a trip to New York City to buy the supplies. Then we came back and sold the jewelry to area businesses. I learned so much with that trip”.

In sum, I learned that the people I studied were able to get ahead in difficult circumstances because they saw themselves as engaged in struggles and made full use of supports within and beyond their communities. Arguably, such ingredients allow all populations to flourish.

Read more in Silvia Domínguez, Getting Ahead: Social Mobility, Public Housing and Immigrant Networks (New York University Press, 2011).

 

By : Silvia Dominguez (Northeastern University)
Date : November 2017
Source : Scholars Strategy Network (http://www.scholarsstrategynetwork.org/brief/how-people-get-ahead-despite-difficult-circumstances)

Posted in Latest Post, Social and Economic Inequalities | Leave a comment
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