Finally Reading [Sociology Books]

Health insurance rip off lying FDA big bankers buying
Fake computer crashes dining
Cloning while they're multiplying
Fashion shoots with Beck and Hanson
Courtney Love, and Marilyn Manson
You're all fakes
Run to your mansions
Come around
We'll kick your ass in

Postby Merciel » Tue Jun 06, 2017 2:33 pm

In this thread I shall cross-post the sociology readings that I've been spamming Facebook with for the past few weeks.

I waffled about whether I wanted to post these things because (a) I think a lot of this stuff is old hat to a fair number of boarders, esp. people who work in education and poverty amelioration, so herpty derp here I am summarizing stuff you probably already know; and (b) I kind of hate my fake Cliff's Notes authorial voice, and reading over my own posts is the mental equivalent of opening the door to a conference room where a bunch of people just got out of a long meeting: it's stuffy and too warm and smells weird.

But ON THE OTHER HAND I thought a lot of this stuff was pretty interesting, and it was new to me anyway, and I'm always hassling people to put out more substantive content, so whatever.
User avatar
Merciel
Hipinion Dog Lady
 
Posts: 24586
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 5:06 pm
Location: dog dog dog

Postby Merciel » Tue Jun 06, 2017 2:35 pm

Unequal Childhoods (1/5)

I'm currently reading Annette Lareau's Unequal Childhoods, an in-depth examination of 12 families (some professional, some working class, some poor) and how their child-rearing styles led to divergent outcomes for the kids.

I'm barely past the beginning, but it's interesting to note that one of the major drawbacks she sees for the middle-class kids is that they sometimes become "entitled." So I was like: oh, that's a word you see casually flung around on the internet a lot these days, I wonder what it meant to a sociology researcher in 2003.

It turns out what she meant is that these kids grow up being unafraid of adults and willing to assert themselves. They make and sustain eye contact even as seven- and eight-year-olds. They know how to shake hands. They're not afraid to direct adults' attention to their own concerns (the example Lareau uses is of a third-grader who interrupts his doctor's standard spiel to talk about a rash that had gone unnoticed). Sometimes this shades into negative behaviors (they are, after all, still children, and can be selfish, presumptuous, or trivial in their concerns), but by and large these are kids who are brought up unafraid of authority and who thus grow up to become assertive in professional settings.

The poor and working-class kids, on the other hand, generally don't interrupt adults or carry themselves with as much confidence. Taught to be polite and respectful, they're more likely to go through interactions with adults without asserting themselves, and to feel confused and frustrated afterwards because they weren't able to get their concerns addressed effectively. These patterns often continue to hold true for them as adults. They can't move as easily into leadership or management positions, and they often feel like people in positions of authority don't take them seriously.

A lot of things clicked into place for me when I read this. It seems so obvious in retrospect, but I feel like now I have a better handle on a number of dynamics going on there. It makes more sense to me now why some adults might resent "entitled" children who are more at ease in those environments than they themselves are, and it also makes sense to me why some number of children who are taught to be assertive will go overboard in that direction and come off as poncy little princelings.

What's most interesting to me about the book so far, though, is how early and how thoroughly those soft skills are transferred along class lines. Lareau argues that there's no inherent reason that "concerted cultivation" (the intense schedule of soccer practice, music lessons, etc. that many middle-class parents do) is better or worse than "natural growth" (the benign neglect and greater freedom that most working-class and poor children grow up in), BUT modern American society places a high value on assertive individuals who navigate social structures with confidence. The less confident and less assertive, on the other hand, often have a harder time getting ahead.

So, while there's no inherent reason one parenting style is better than the other, the surrounding social structure rewards one more highly.

It's also probably worth dropping a footnote that the extreme insecurity and competitiveness of American society is the reason that you have so many exhausted and overscheduled eight-year-olds. The legacy of Ayn Rand is, in part, miserable second-graders. So that's cool.
User avatar
Merciel
Hipinion Dog Lady
 
Posts: 24586
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 5:06 pm
Location: dog dog dog

Postby Merciel » Tue Jun 06, 2017 2:42 pm

Unequal Childhoods (2/5)

Unequal Childhoods, Chs. 6 and 7, examines differences in language use and development through the prism of two black boys. One is the son of two wealthy professionals, the other is the son of a single mother in a housing project. It's an interesting (and understated) demo of "intersectionality" that might be worth using to illustrate the idea for people who aren't sure what that's all about.

It's also well worth reading just for its more direct insights:

"The positive aspects of Harold's upbringing -- the ease he displays with his peers, his resourcefulness in creating games and organizing his own time, his respectful attitude toward adults, his deep connection to family members -- are rendered nearly invisible in the "real world" of social institutions.

Educators, health-care professionals, employers, and others accept (and help to reproduce) an ideology that values, among other things, reasoning and negotiating skills, large vocabularies, facility in speaking and working with strangers, and time management -- the very attributes [that middle-class children] like Alexander develop in their daily lives [via continually being treated as a conversational equal, encouraged and challenged regarding his opinions, and taught new vocabulary and argument techniques in the course of daily life.]

[Over time, these] institutional preferences evolve into institutionalized inequality, as differences come to be defined as deficits."

But back to the intersectionality bit:

The professional couple is very conscious about educating their son in the realities of race, but also in guiding that education to maximize his advantages. His mother takes pains to ensure that he's never the only black kid in any given class or organized activity; she never puts him in a position to be isolated or bullied without someone else at his side. However, at the same time, his parents ensure that he spends lots of time around "cultured" white people, so that he becomes accustomed to and comfortable in their company and social activities.

By contrast, race is seldom or never overtly discussed in the poor kid's life, and he lives in an extremely segregated world where he basically never sees white people who aren't either in the projects to score drugs or government employees checking in on the residents. While he encounters white children and their parents at school, and sees them in the stores and on public transportation that his family frequents, he has no occasion to interact with them socially and is never exposed to upper-middle-class white people or given a chance to develop comfort with their norms.

It doesn't take much squinting to see how that difference in interacting with the people in power is likely to play out when these kids are adults.

Also, I appreciated the author noting that the poor kid's mom does not work and is on welfare. Lareau makes a point of noting that Ms. McAllister is a dedicated and loving mother who is extremely responsible and hardworking, and the reason she can't work is because she has to look after a whole house full of kids: her own two minor children, plus the children of relatives who are either (at one extreme) lost to drug addiction, or (at the other) striving to break free of poverty by moving to locations that offer more opportunity, but where they can't easily bring their kids.

While there are other relatives who drift in and out and help when they can, it's clear that this mom is the one holding together an extended web of people who depend on her. So I thought that was a nice (and hopefully eye-opening, although it's somewhat underplayed in the text and so might not strike people as hard as it should) example of how sometimes being on welfare is the most positive and responsible choice a person can make. If this mom goes to work, not one but three families lose their emotional center and the warm but watchful guidance that's their kids' best chance to make it out of this world.
User avatar
Merciel
Hipinion Dog Lady
 
Posts: 24586
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 5:06 pm
Location: dog dog dog

Postby Merciel » Tue Jun 06, 2017 2:44 pm

Unequal Childhoods (3/5):

Further notes on Unequal Childhoods (Chs. 10-12, discussing how class differences influence families' interactions with schools):

-- Working-class and poor parents expressed "more distance, distrust, and difficulty in their relationship with educators than occurred [with] middle-class families. [One mother] did not feel that she had the 'words' to 'talk about' what she wanted to cover in [parent-teacher] conferences. Instead, she felt powerless and constrained."

This is in part due to the fact that many of these households relied on physical punishment as a primary means of discipline (reasoning and negotiation was not as emphasized as in the middle-class households) and this "was not in keeping with the standards promoted by professionals." Accordingly, one mother who relied on physical punishment "felt rightfully threatened [by school officials' standard warnings that they were legally bound to report child abuse], since she felt that 'Billy gets so out of control that maybe he does need [a beating with a belt] once in a while.'"

"In short," Lareau concluded, "[this mother's] failure to use reasoning and her adoption of a belt made her vulnerable, since she moved in a 'field' (the school) that privileged reasoning. [Physical punishment] carries a potentially catastrophic risk: that her son could show the teacher the marks on his arm, she could be arrested for child abuse, and her son could be put in foster care."

This worry contributes to "an ongoing feeling of the threat of a looming catastrophe" in the parents' dealings with the school, which "undermines their feeling of trust or comfort at school, a feeling that other researchers have argued is pivotal in the formation of effective and productive family-school relationships."

That whole section was interesting to me because while I was aware of the research showing a more direct correlation between use of physical punishment and lowered life outcomes for kids, *that particular* wrinkle had never occurred to me. And Lareau's research confirms that for middle-class parents, it's literally unimaginable that the school would "come and take my kids away" for that reason; they often joke about it, but for them it's not remotely considered a real possibility. But for all the working-class and poor families who got profiled, physical punishment was a core tool, and the risk of being turned in for abuse was perceived as very real by those parents.

-- Relatedly, because their approach to discipline and problem-solving is different, working-class and poor parents "are likely to regard the school's approach [to discipline] as inappropriate. Many encourage their children -- in direct violation of school rules -- to hit peers who harass them, specifically including the advice to take their retaliatory actions 'when the teacher isn't looking.'"

All else aside, this dramatically raises the risk that the parents are effectively advising their kids to get suspended or expelled (or even arrested and charged as delinquents), which is not helpful for their long-term educational prospects or upward mobility.

-- Another theme was that while working-class and poor parents were very willing to push back verbally against "cable companies, landlords, and local merchants," they did not do so against educators, because "these parents view education as the job of educators and thus they expect teachers and school staff to be the ones primarily responsible for seeing that their children learn all that they should."

However, that isn't the expectation that most teachers hold. They expect that parents will be actively involved as partners working toward the same goal, and "openly criticiz[e]" more passive parents "for not taking more of a leadership role in their children's schooling."

This has major implications when it comes to choosing an appropriate class load for high-schoolers and beginning the college application process, because all of that is highly individualized and requires extensive knowledge of the expectations and requirements that different colleges have, plus how those colleges align with the kid's abilities and goals. For middle-class parents, all of whom were college-educated in this sample, it was relatively easy to navigate the process because they were familiar with the requirements and the various strengths and weaknesses of the competitive schools they were considering.

For the working-class and poor parents, none of whom had a college degree, the whole process was foreign, and most of them didn't have any inkling that they were supposed to be involved at all. They saw that as educators' duty to guide their kids through, and took a much more hands-off approach.

-- Finally, the researchers found "a common tendency among working-class and poor parents to merge authority figures into one indiscriminate group. Thus, classroom teachers, resource teachers, librarians, and principals are usually all referred to as 'the school.'"

One mother in the sample even conflates nurses at two different schools, one assigned to treat her son and the other assigned to treat her daughter in two separate incidents, as "the school." When one nurse (in the mother's mind) overreacted to a minor matter, and the other nurse failed to notice a fairly serious injury some time later, the mother's interpretation was that "the school" as a whole was not to be trusted.

I imagine this doesn't help parents' level of engagement/cooperation with school officials when, e.g., a kid has a single ineffective or unpleasant teacher and, rather than moving their kid to a different class or registering objections to that individual teacher, the parents' conclusion is that the whole monolithic system is against them.

All this stuff is likely obvious to people who have worked in the educational system, but I had never thought about it before and so this was all new to me.


more later, think that's enough spammage for now
User avatar
Merciel
Hipinion Dog Lady
 
Posts: 24586
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 5:06 pm
Location: dog dog dog

Postby vivian darko » Tue Jun 06, 2017 3:03 pm

Have been enjoying these on FB, post for view your posts
User avatar
vivian darko
 
Posts: 10023
Joined: Sun May 03, 2015 8:04 pm

Postby ripersnifle » Tue Jun 06, 2017 3:14 pm

post
steakspoon wrote:sorry if sounds corny fellas but i'll always remember where i was when i heard my first big star song..the internet.
User avatar
ripersnifle
 
Posts: 14185
Joined: Mon Jun 06, 2011 11:07 pm
Location: carnivalesque hellscape post-2000

Postby Merciel » Tue Jun 06, 2017 3:28 pm

cool, wasn't sure what reception these things would get on hpn

guess I'll just finish up the sequence on this book

Unequal Childhoods (4/5):

Child outcomes in Unequal Childhoods (all the names are pseudonymous, and these kids ranged from 19 to 21 years old when these outcomes were recorded):

1. Melanie Handlon (white, middle-class): her learning disability was finally diagnosed in 8th grade. She became a high school cheerleader, which she loved. After graduation, she enrolled in a nearby community college but failed out in less than a semester. Unemployed and single at the time of the interview, she stated that her hope is "to be a stay-at-home mom until my kids are in school."

2. Stacey Marshall (black, middle-class): switched from gymnastics to basketball after a growth spurt made her too tall to compete seriously in gymnastics. Was recruited by Columbia, but her parents wouldn't let her take on that level of debt load given that she wanted to go on to med school, so instead she took a four-year full basketball scholarship to the University of Maryland. At the time of the interview she was working two summer jobs, had no immediate plans for marriage or kids, and wanted to get her career established before trying for a family.

3. Garrett Tallinger (white, middle-class): switched from soccer to basketball when his family moved to an area where soccer wasn't a serious sport. Took a full four-year basketball scholarship to Villanova, where his team made it several rounds into March Madness. Picked a business major, opting not to become a teacher because his dad told him he wouldn't earn enough money. Hopes to marry and have a family sometime after 25; also hopes to play basketball a few years in Europe after graduating.

4. Alexander Williams (black, middle-class): Pursuing a combined undergrad-and-med-school eight-year program at Columbia, where he was doing well. Noted to the researcher that he had less difficulty transitioning to Columbia than some of his peers from all-black schools did, because he was already accustomed to navigating predominantly white institutions. At the time of the interview, was excited about traveling to California to visit his girlfriend there, and seemed "content and optimistic about his future."

5. Wendy Driver (white, working-class): when interviewed at 20, had an 18-month-old daughter and was pregnant with her second kid. Graduated from high school and was accepted to a small local college but opted not to attend because "she was afraid she would be unable to do college-level work." Married a Navy guy whom she described as "a nice guy" who was "really shy," had a "troubled" past, and "used to drink a lot." Became a stay-at-home mom, though she noted that she hoped to "take night classes" someday and open a home-based day care business.

6. Tyrec Taylor (black, working-class): went from a decent middle school to a poorly performing city high school, which caused him to get mixed up with "the wrong people" and "g[e]t locked up." His mom stretched financially to get him into private high school for a year, which helped him straighten out. Graduated high school, went to community college for two semesters, at the time of the interview was working a good construction job in lead abatement. His main preoccupation, though, was "simple survival": two of his good friends had been killed by street violence in recent years.

7. Billy Yanelli (white, working-class): dropped out of high school as a sophomore, later got his GED. Was living at home with his parents at the time of the interview and trying to make it into the painters' union (where his father got him an in), but was continually being undermined by behavioral problems and drug use; at the time of the interview, he was on probation and down to his last strike.

8. Katie Brindle (white, poor): dropped out of high school after struggling with drinking, drug use, and fighting. Got pregnant the summer after her sophomore year; having a baby stabilized her but didn't fully resolve her problems, and she ultimately gave the child to her sister to raise. She was briefly married (to a different man than the baby's father) but they divorced before the child was three years old. At the time of the interview, Katie was cleaning houses alongside her mother, who had gotten her the job. Her aspirations were to get her GED, get a better job, and be able to afford her own apartment.

9. Harold McAllister (black, poor): although he was an unrivaled basketball player as a kid, he got derailed when the coach at his high school insisted that he should play football instead and wouldn't let him play basketball. Harold, who had been a pretty solid student up until then, started working full time as a bus boy "to get [his] mind off basketball." Because he worked late hours as a bus boy, he slept through too many school mornings and ended up dropping out six weeks before graduation. At the time of the interview, he was working as a waiter at the same suburban chain restaurant where he'd been a bus boy during high school -- a job that required him to make a two-hour bus commute each way. His aspirations are to get married, have children, and "earn enough money to be able to retire at 35."

It's interesting to survey these outcomes after reading Promises I Can Keep, because both of the lower-income girls did largely follow that pattern: the working-class girl grew up to be a teen mom who married, and the poor girl grew up to be a teen mom who wound up single. The poorer kids in general had much more explicltly gendered childhoods than the middle-class ones, and were raised in accordance with some pretty clear double standards. I didn't see much evidence of that happening in the more affluent and educated homes.

It's also interesting to note that while race had an impact on the kids' trajectories (all the black boys reported experiencing discrimination, even the premed student at Columbia, and all were resigned to it; meanwhile, the working-class white boy got a lot of second chances that he probably wouldn't have otherwise, although he too reported being harassed by the police, on the basis of his class status rather than race), class was a much much bigger determinant of their life outcomes.

Finally, one thing that stuck out to me was that while all the families aspired for their kids to go to college, the working-class and poor families were generally content with high school graduation (and the Yanellis were thrilled when Billy got his GED; Lareau noted that to them, it seemed that "a diploma" was all that mattered, and Billy Yanelli Sr. did not differentiate between a college diploma and a GED). Meanwhile, for the Handlons, it was perceived as a "humiliation" that their daughter flunked out of community college, and her mother visibly blushed and was embarrassed when she realized that Lareau was doing her follow-up interviews during the summer, "before the kids go back to college."

To me, this suggests that aspirations aren't the only factor. Negative social pressure pushes middle-class kids to finish school too. There's a stigma to middle-class kids dropping out of college that the lower-class families don't experience.

I don't know whether that's good or bad (it sure didn't make the Handlons feel great, and it probably pushes some kids into suboptimal decisions), but I do think it's pretty clearly a factor.

Anyway, the conclusion of the book was that in 8 out of 9 cases, the kids appeared to be clearly on a path to mirroring their parents' life outcomes. This suggests that while there is some room for exceptional cases to move upward or downward, those are exceptions, and in general, for most people, the class you're born into will have a significant influence on the class you end up in.
User avatar
Merciel
Hipinion Dog Lady
 
Posts: 24586
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 5:06 pm
Location: dog dog dog

Postby Merciel » Tue Jun 06, 2017 3:29 pm

Unequal Childhoods (5/5):

Final notes on Unequal Childhoods:

-- All the siblings in these homes wound up on generally the same trajectories as the profiled children (to the point where Stacey's sister Fern also got a four-year basketball scholarship to a solid school, Melanie's younger brother also dropped out of community college, etc.). There was strikingly little variation in their outcomes. Their parents' class status (with maternal education being the most influential factor) really was all but determinative of how these kids turned out.

-- Class differences also began to show up among the parents during the ten-year check back. Everybody remained in the same general economic category (one of the middle-class families got substantially wealthier when the father got a new job, and a borderline working-class/middle-class family moved solidly into the middle class when the mom went back to school and got a better professional certification, but otherwise everybody stayed where they were), but health differences began to become apparent for the parents.

By the time their kids were in their early 20s, about half of the working-class parents were beginning to suffer from chronic health problems (the Yanellis, both heavy smokers, were showing the toll of that; another father was injured at work and did not regain full function). The majority of the poor parents were in poor health. Of the middle-class parents, one was diagnosed as diabetic and another had a bad leg, but they were otherwise all in good health.

-- Lareau observed that when the children were ten years old, she thought the middle-class kids looked tired and overscheduled, while the working-class and poor kids were buoyant and full of energy. By the time they were in their 20s, their positions were reversed: the middle-class kids seemed younger and full of optimism, while the less fortunate kids appeared to be worn down and, while still hopeful, far older than their years.

-- Lareau also noted that "the experience of adulthood itself influenced how individuals conceived of childhood." Middle-class parents "tended to view childhood as an opportunity for play, but also as a chance to develop talents and skills that could be valuable in the self-actualization processes that take place in adulthood." Moreover, they were keenly aware of the competitive job market for middle-class occupations and thus felt "it was important that children be developed in a variety of ways in order to enhance their future possibilities."

For the working-class and poor parents, by contrast, Lareau found that "it was the deadening quality of work and the press of economic shortages that defined their experience of adulthood and influenced their vision of childhood. [...] Thinking back over their childhoods, these adults acknowledged periods of hardship but also recalled times without the kinds of worries that troubled them at present. Many appeared to want their own youngsters to spend their time being happy and relaxed. There would be plenty of time for their children to face the burdens of life when they reached adulthood."

-- Lareau's study included a small number of upwardly mobile families where the parents were middle class, but the grandparents were poor or working class. "In some cases," she wrote, "these grandparents objected to the child-rearing practices associated with concerted cultivation. They were bewildered by their grandchildren's hectic schedules of organized activities, outraged that the parents would reason with the children instead of giving them clear directives, and awed by the intensive involvement of mothers in the children's schooling." The upshot, she found, was that "as parents' own social class position shifts, so do their cultural beliefs and practices in child rearing."

It would be interesting to know whether the same is true of downwardly mobile families (do they revert to natural growth philosophies?), but there weren't enough of those in the study to make any observations on that front. There was only one such family, and they practiced concerted cultivation within the time and money constraints that their family was under. Their kid, not included in my previous summary because they weren't among the primary profiled families, did end up going to a four-year college on a full scholarship and made the dean's list there.

-- While none of the kids in the primary profiles went to a predatory for-profit school (probably because that wasn't as much of a thing during that time period), some of their younger siblings did. All the kids who went to for-profit schools were either working-class or poor (I would presume, although Lareau doesn't say, because the middle-class kids' parents knew enough to steer them far the hell away from that trap).

They all accrued significant debt, only one of the three who took that road finished with a degree, and none of the three was able to obtain work or any significant economic benefit from having gone to a for-profit school. All of them basically sank into deeper debt with nothing to show for it.

THE END. This is a pretty good book, I'd definitely recommend it if you're into doing sociology readings in your spare time.
User avatar
Merciel
Hipinion Dog Lady
 
Posts: 24586
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 5:06 pm
Location: dog dog dog

Postby Merciel » Tue Jun 06, 2017 3:32 pm

There's also a shorter post I skipped about the case study of Melanie Handlon. I omitted that one because ultimately it was just me talking to myself about how I didn't really get what the author was going for in that chapter.

Melanie Handlon, one of the white middle-class kids, was described as a shy, pudgy, not-terribly-popular girl who was consistently at the bottom of her class academically and got the lowest possible score in multiple subjects. Her mom spent hours coaching her through homework assignments (that other kids in her class did in < half an hour without help), causing tremendous frustration and discouragement for them both. Her teachers thought (correctly, as it turned out) that Melanie had an undiagnosed learning disability that her parents were in denial about (they wouldn't even get her tested to find out).

The stated point of that chapter was to demonstrate that class advantages aren't the whole story; there are some individuals who will have better or worse life outcomes based on their individual characteristics irrespective of their parents' starting position.

Overall though I felt like that chapter was more about how much pressure these kids are under to succeed, and how bad it sucks for them and their entire families when they can't.

It was a pretty downer read.
User avatar
Merciel
Hipinion Dog Lady
 
Posts: 24586
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 5:06 pm
Location: dog dog dog

Postby Merciel » Wed Jun 07, 2017 12:07 pm

Promises I Can Keep (1/2):

Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas's book Promises I Can Keep explores why poor women have babies so young -- often as teenagers -- and why they don't get married beforehand (or, generally, for many years after).

Their answers were illuminating. It's not about contraceptive failures (these women know how to use contraception and mostly have decent access to condoms and pills, at least); it's not about wanting a bigger welfare check (both research data and interviewees' self-reports indicate this isn't a factor); it's not about devaluing marriage (to the contrary, marriage was a longed-for dream).

It's almost entirely cultural, and I was surprised at how conservative that culture felt to me, given that its most visible result is teenage girls dropping out of school and having kids, which conservatives generally rail against. But, in fact, the women's values and ideals seemed to me to be rooted in '80s culture warrior concepts, just transposed to a socioeconomic setting where it led to this result.

First, children are prized in these neighborhoods. They "are nearly always viewed as a gift, not a liability -- a source of both joy and fulfillment whenever they happen upon the scene. They bring a new sense of hope and a chance to start fresh. Thus, most women want the baby very much once the pregnancy occurs." Moreover, "the way in which a young woman reacts in the face of a pregnancy is viewed as a mark of her worth as a person. And as motherhood is the most important social role she believes she will play, a failure to respond positively is a blot on her sense of self."

Abortion is viewed as immoral and irresponsible (especially when it's for something "selfish" such as pursuing education); adoption is "giving away your own flesh and blood." The responsible choice, for which there is considerable social pressure, is to "deal with it" and keep the baby.

And most of these girls desperately want that baby. "In choosing to bring a pregnancy to term, a young woman can capitalize on an important and rare opportunity to demonstrate her capabilities to her kin and community. Her willingness and ability to [... rise] to the challenge of the most serious and consequential of all adult roles is clear evidence that she is no longer a 'trifling' teenager." Motherhood is viewed as the highest purpose of being a woman.

Thus, in this social context, the rewards of keeping the baby are far greater, and the opportunity costs of doing so are far lower. Keeping a baby is "the surest source of accomplishment within [the girls'] reach: becoming a mother." It's a source of pride and fulfillment. The baby represents having arrived into adult responsibility, and provides love and a strong relationship in a context where most women report little trust in their neighbors, no close friends, and weak kinship ties. The "choice to have a child despite the obstacles that lie ahead is a compelling demonstration of a young woman's maturity and high social stature," and is often the only source of meaning or purpose in the women's lives.

And they're not giving up much to get it. Edin and Kefalas note that "early childbearing is highly selective of girls whose other characteristics -- family background, cognitive ability, school performance, mental health status, and so on -- have already diminished their life chances so much that an early birth does little to reduce them farther." The research indicates that "[d]isadvantaged girls who bear children have about the same long-term earnings trajectories as similarly disadvantaged youth who wait until their mid or late twenties to have a child." In other words, they're really not losing anything.

The upshot is that these women live in a world where, unlike middle-class women, they have little opportunity to develop rewarding professional careers or identities, and no clear idea of how to get there. The only clear opportunity they have to adopt a meaningful social identity is as a mother, and because so many of them grow up raising siblings or neighborhood kids, parenting involves a familiar skillset that they're confident they can execute well. Further, the stress, loneliness, and anomie of a life that lacks direction "create a profound drive to make life more meaningful" by becoming a mother and thus having a purpose.

Take out women's ability to define themselves via education and career, emphasize motherhood as the pinnacle of femininity and the most rewarding part of a woman's life (not to mention the measure of her worth as a person), paint abortion as the choice of the selfish and immature, and what you get is a cultural context in which it makes a lot of sense for a teenage dropout seeking validation and meaning to find the purpose of her life in a baby.

So that's half the equation. The other half is why they don't get married. I'll summarize that part next time I feel like talking to myself on the internet for a while.
User avatar
Merciel
Hipinion Dog Lady
 
Posts: 24586
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 5:06 pm
Location: dog dog dog

Postby Kenny » Wed Jun 07, 2017 12:09 pm

Is there anything you don't do Finally, Merciel?
Image [PEACE] [LOVE] [UNITY] [RESPECT] ImageImage

Hi, I'm Kenny. I'm a Sagittarius and I love old video games and drinking craft beers.
User avatar
Kenny
"Two Phones" Maccabee
 
Posts: 18706
Joined: Wed Jul 24, 2013 5:04 am
Location: https://i.imgur.com/YhvNstr.jpg

Postby Merciel » Wed Jun 07, 2017 12:14 pm

Promises I Can Keep (2/2):

Notes on Promises I Can Keep, pt. 2: why lower-income women tend not to marry.

Edin and Kefalas found that poor women want very much to get married (70% of their interviewees stated explicitly that marriage was an important life goal for them), and that their ideal conception of marriage is virtually identical to the middle-class ideal: a partnership of equals that provides emotional support, companionship, and a harmonious home in which to raise kids.

The problem is that it's really hard to find a partner who can live up to this ideal when you're poor. Most of the men available to these women are bluntly described by the researchers as "low quality." Infidelity, domestic abuse, substance abuse, and criminal involvement are common; almost all of their respondents had experienced at least one of those issues in a relationship. In these neighborhoods, "good, decent, trustworthy men are in short supply."

(An interesting side note here is that because irresponsibility is more socially tolerated for new fathers than new mothers, and because mothers in these neighborhoods not only expect but welcome the responsibility of "getting serious" when babies arrive, there's actually some evidence that having a baby tends to settle girls down, but has no such effect on boys. The result is that poor moms tend to fare better, economically and behaviorally, than poor dads. The research suggests that having children is actually a stabilizing factor for these women -- it often acts as an incentive to stop fighting, abusing drugs, associating with less stable acquaintances, etc. -- and is part of why, as a group, the mothers often become more responsible and hardworking than their men.)

Compounding the economic and behavioral unsuitability of these men is the fact that poor, unskilled men have not accepted modern gender norms to the same extent that everyone else has. Many of them still expect to be treated like kings of the household, displaying an attitude of explicit sexual ownership and jealousy toward their wives that the women want no part of.

Because of all these factors, the women tend to put off marriage until they're economically stable. If the woman isn't financially dependent on her husband, she has some leverage to demand that he "treat her right," or else she'll walk. Also, "these couples live in a world where the better-off men go to the better-off women," so by improving her own economic position, a poor woman can attract a better class of man. All of this creates a powerful incentive to delay marriage until later in life (many of the women say that the ideal age for marriage is 35 or 40).

Further, because the symbolic importance of marriage as a marker of having "arrived" into the "white picket fence" dream of respectability is so great, "[f]or the poor, divorce is the ultimate loss of face; the couple must bear the reproach of neighbors and kin for daring to think they were ready for marriage in the first place." It's precisely because marriage vows are perceived as so sacred and powerful that the women don't want to risk failure and aren't willing to accept a proposal until they have complete faith in the relationship.

The upshot is that "for a poor single mother to say she's abandoned the goal of marriage is the equivalent of admitting she's given up on her dreams for a better future." But the value of the dream is so great that "the poor avoid marriage not because they think too little of it, but because they revere it. They object to divorce because they believe it strips marriage of its meaning[... and] their prerequisites for marriage reflect the high standards they've adopted."

In this context, with so few gems available amidst the duds, a man's reaction to news of his partner's pregnancy is perceived as a test of his worthiness. It's considered "better to gauge a man's worth early on than waste years investing in a lost cause."

Poor women "see little point in waiting to have children, since they do not believe that having children early will have much effect on their economic prospects later on," and "consider marriage a luxury -- one they desire and hope someday to attain, but can live without if they must."

So what policy prescriptions do the authors see working?

-- A big piece is "improving the quality of the male partners in the pool," via increased employment/job training (and addressing the host of ills that have accompanied the "war on drugs"), plus early intervention to teach relationship skills (which are generally lacking in communities that have few good role models for strong marriages), plus convincing men to delay fatherhood until their late twenties, when most of them age out of crime and delinquency.

-- Social programs that effectively address teen pregnancy among at-risk populations show promise. One of the more effective methods is engaging teenage girls in service learning, giving them "the opportunity to give of oneself and the chance to feel useful to others" via community involvement. (I think this could dovetail neatly with government-sponsored child care in, e.g., paying teenage girls to work as daycare aides.)

-- Asset creation strategies such as EITC, subsidized home ownership/car ownership/education for the poor, and higher minimum wages, make marriage more economically feasible. (The late '90s economic boom, which increased wages even for unskilled workers, spurred a drop in nonmarital childbirth rates, suggesting that when girls saw a viable economic path forward, they were willing to delay childbearing to take advantage of the available opportunity.)

-- In general, anything that effectively reduces inequality and opens opportunities for women who otherwise see no viable paths forward will tend to encourage marriage and delay childbearing.

A few years later, Edin and Kefalas wrote a whole separate book examining poor men's attitudes toward fatherhood, which is next up in the queue.
User avatar
Merciel
Hipinion Dog Lady
 
Posts: 24586
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 5:06 pm
Location: dog dog dog

Postby Merciel » Fri May 04, 2018 2:22 pm

gonna do some Facebook crossposts here before I forget about them and lose them like I did all through the second half of 2017

On Tracie McMillan's The American Way of Eating (2012):

The nutshell version is that McMillan spent two months working alongside undocumented immigrants in California's Central Valley, harvesting grapes, garlic, and other produce; then she went to work as a grocery shelf stocker at WalMart; then she went to work as an expediter at Applebee's. Each time, she presented herself as a regular employee, although her experience wasn't exactly like everyone else's because (as she notes repeatedly through each section) she was a young white woman and an American citizen with the signifiers of an upper-middle-class education, which gave her privileges in each situation that most of her co-workers didn't have.

One of the two main goals of her project was to see how each step of the American food production process works, from growing to harvesting to transportation to grocery store to restaurant, each time selecting the single biggest operation that touches the largest number of American lives. California grows and harvests most of the nation's domestic produce. WalMart is the single biggest grocer in the nation (bigger than the next three combined) and the only one available in many communities. Applebee's is the single largest sit-down restaurant chain (which McMillan chose because most people view that as "real" food, whereas everyone acknowledges that outright fast food is junk).

The other main goal was to see how workers actually involved in food production are able to eat in their own lives. What can you afford to buy with those wages? How much time and energy do you have to spare for cooking? What's available to you, what's easiest when you're tired or stressed, and what choices and compromises does your lifestyle require?

You will probably not be surprised to learn that there's a lot of waste and dishonesty throughout the process, that undocumented workers get cheated and exploited every possible way, or that the working poor have a real hard time keeping themselves adequately fed, let alone accessing high-quality and nutritious food on a regular basis. But the details are pretty eye-opening, all the same.
User avatar
Merciel
Hipinion Dog Lady
 
Posts: 24586
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 5:06 pm
Location: dog dog dog

Postby Merciel » Fri May 04, 2018 2:23 pm

The American Way of Eating (1/4: Farming):

Tracie McMillan's book opens with her stint working alongside (mostly) undocumented Mexican immigrants in California's Central Valley, where she harvests grapes, peaches, onions, and garlic for what was intended to be a two-month stint, but which got cut short each and every time by her ineptitude for the difficult and fast-paced work, the end of that particular harvest, and/or her physical inability to keep up (she gets incapacitated a couple of times by physical exhaustion and heatstroke before finally being put out for good by repetitive stress injuries that cripple her right arm).

A few things jumped out at me during this section of the book. First and foremost, the kindness of McMillan's neighbors is remarkable. They repeatedly help her out and offer her charity on the job (splitting their meager earnings with her even when she's the one whose lousy performance held the entire harvesting team back; taking her out to sell sodas and doing most of the work for her; dumping their garlic harvests into her buckets to make up for her shortfalls; letting her have shade and water in the fields even though her colleagues are 20 years older and working much harder; giving her the physically easier tasks). They give her food when she's too tired or poor to cook for herself.

In some cases, there's an actual or hoped-for exchange of favors -- most of McMillan's co-workers want her to help them with their English, one community organizer wants her (as an American citizen who isn't threatened by deportation) to speak out publicly about their working conditions, and there's one guy who wants her to marry him and keeps trying to do things as romantic gestures -- but for the most part, people just help her because they feel sorry for her, or because she's part of their community and a poor immigrant community needs to hold together to survive.

This section of the book also has some eye-opening details about the hardships of the work. Obviously we all know in a generic sense that farm work is incredibly tough manual labor. But McMillan brings it home with detailed descriptions of the working conditions, the actual blow-by-blow tasks involved (and how much dexterity and fast judgment they demand, and the repetitive stress injuries they cause), and her mostly failed struggles to keep up, despite being younger than most of her coworkers and in good physical health.

She talks about how you need to carry heavy, costly 5-gallon jugs of drinking water into the field every day, because the groundwater is so contaminated with fertilizer and pesticide runoff that it's poisonous. You need specific equipment, which her coworkers loan to her and maintain for her because she doesn't even know what's needed. Crop dusters routinely violate regulations on the timing and proximity of their flights, catching farmworkers in drifting poison clouds. The subcontractor who's paying them (they are not paid directly by the farm owners) routinely shortchanges them and skirts minimum wage regulations by falsifying their hours -- even for McMillan, who's a citizen. But no one complains, because complaining means you won't be picked for the next crew.

Living conditions are overcrowded and chaotic, but McMillan's neighbors go out of their way to make her feel welcome. They socialize with her, invite her over for homecooked meals (which she can't reciprocate, being unable to keep herself fed on her wages; she notes that due to the amount of physical labor she was doing, she lost a ton of weight even with her neighbors' feeding her, and would literally have starved without them), and offer her lodgings that she can actually afford.

Her diet is calorically insufficient, but is not un-nutritious during this portion of the project. Neither is what she sees her coworkers eating. The first-generation immigrants have brought along their own food culture, which emphasizes healthy, homecooked meals built around rice, beans, and whatever fresh produce they can afford (with some meat, but financial constraints keep that limited, which is the healthier choice anyway). Because many of the farmworkers have large families with teenage daughters at home, and these daughters are taught and expected to prepare food for the whole family, it's possible for everyone to have a homecooked meal even though the workers are too tired to do much cooking themselves. Most of them also grow small herb and vegetable gardens to supplement what they can buy.

During this period, McMillan sees no other white people in the fields. She's the only one. She spends some time discussing the reasons for this (it's backbreaking work, conditions are bad, and the pay is abysmal, so no one with better alternatives would choose this work), and then talks about wages for hand labor vs. mechanizing fields.

The upshot is that increasing wages would not really increase the retail price of produce (most of what we pay for is transportation and marketing, not the cost of growing or harvesting), but if wages did increase, growers would likely switch to increased mechanization for many crops. This has some tradeoffs (for instance, crops have to be planted and bred for durability and ease of machine harvesting, which often results in a tradeoff of worse flavor and less nutrition; the environmental consequences are generally worse, etc.), but is the go-to solution whenever the crop is amenable to mechanical harvesting and the cost of labor goes up.

This then segues into a discussion of whether big ag practices are sustainable (spoiler: probably not!), and why that's so. There's a ton of information crammed into these pages and I can't hope to summarize it all; it's well worth reading on your own.

McMillan is also an excellent observer of people. During her time in the garlic fields, there's a sweet interlude with a two-year-old that HAAATES her (really! it's cute! it would be cute even if I didn't have a ridiculous spiteful toddler of my own!) and a 17-year-old who loves Jay-Z and gets her musical choices past her super conservative immigrant parents (who don't speak English) by telling them that "99 Problems" is actually just "Christian music in America."

But then McMillan gets injured, and chooses to quit her project early rather than risk permanent damage to her arm. She recognizes that she's lucky to have the luxury of making that choice, and then she makes it.
User avatar
Merciel
Hipinion Dog Lady
 
Posts: 24586
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 5:06 pm
Location: dog dog dog

Postby Merciel » Fri May 04, 2018 2:24 pm

The American Way of Eating (2/4: Selling)

The next part of Tracie McMillan's project saw her working at a couple of WalMarts near Detroit, first as a shelf stocker in the non-produce grocery section (which is much bigger than the produce section, since frozen and shelf-stable processed goods are much cheaper to stock and much more profitable to the company), and then in the produce section of a different WalMart.

It turns out to be really hard to get a job at WalMart. McMillan applied to every WalMart within an hour's commute of where she was staying, and still had so much trouble getting hired that she had to break this part of the project into two sections and finish it after she did the "last" part working at Applebee's. This isn't because WalMart is such a great place to work (it definitely isn't, although McMillan didn't experience anything like some of the horror stories that came out at other WalMarts during this period), but because she was doing this in the immediate aftermath of the Great Recession and unemployment was through the roof, particularly for the low-skilled workers who were competing with her for entry-level WalMart jobs.

Much of this chapter traces the history of supermarkets and the rise in processed foods (again: cheaper to stock, more profitable to sell), with the corresponding decline in American cooking skills and the deterioration of the average diet. McMillan also discusses how WalMart, during this expansion phase, often comes into a community with low prices that drive local independents out of business, then jacks its prices up again once there's nobody left to compete.

The rise of WalMart Supercenters exacerbated all these trends: while WalMart Supercenters do stock produce, they don't have much of it, and what they do have is generally poor-quality (McMillan spends a while explaining all the different tricks that WalMart produce stockers employ to conceal the wilting, mold, and slime on their produce) and expensive. McMillan finds much higher-quality and cheaper produce at a small Mexican grocery close to where she's living -- but since small independent groceries can't compete on processed goods (and there are some cultural and socioeconomic barriers in play), most time-crunched locals head to the WalMart and find themselves limited to a selection of crappy, expensive produce that further deters them from incorporating it in their diets.

It's in this section that McMillan's colleagues have noticeably crummy diets. Part of this is local (white) food culture, which is heavy on... well... heavy stuff, mostly combinations of high-calorie, low-nutrient processed crud. Part of it is cost (processed goods are cheap, produce is expensive and perishable). Part of it is lack of cooking skills (McMillan encounters people who literally do not know how to tell whether produce is fresh or ripe, can't section a pineapple, don't know what to do with a whole butternut squash, etc.). Part of it is a cultural sense that farmers' markets and fetishized local produce are for "fancy people" or "snobs." And part is just being so tired and pressed for time that it's easier to eat the employee-discounted WalMart food -- which is, of course, mostly processed stuff, since the produce you can get with your employee discount sucks.

All of these barriers can be broken down -- and McMillan spends some time discussing programs that have shown promising results, as well as local initiatives like a black community group's communal garden and vacant-lot reclamation project -- but they exist, and they push people away from making healthier choices.

She makes the point (which I thought was pretty convincing) that kitchen literacy is just as important as reading literacy, but we teach kids to read in school and we don't necessarily teach them how to cook. It's just left up to chance: if you learn to cook at home, you're on a much better footing in life, but if nobody ever teaches you at home, it can be difficult and intimidating to make up for that as an adult. Which has a lot of obvious deleterious consequences in terms of both your health and how much enjoyment you can get out of life, and the skills that you in turn might pass down to your relatives.

Especially these days, there's a major class component to who learns to cook and how. Higher-SES homes and recent immigrants who have their own deeply rooted food cultures are splitting away from lower-SES families and the assimiliated children of immigrant families who have adopted American eating habits. It's a significant part of the advantage/disadvantage clustering that's driving increasingly unequal outcomes across class strata, and it's a problem.
User avatar
Merciel
Hipinion Dog Lady
 
Posts: 24586
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 5:06 pm
Location: dog dog dog

Postby Merciel » Fri May 04, 2018 2:25 pm

The American Way of Eating (3/4: Cooking):

This section of Tracie McMillan's book sees her working in a Brooklyn Applebee's as an expediter (conveying orders from a computer screen to the cooks, garnishing the plates and making sure they're correct, then flagging when each dish is ready so that each table's meals can go out at the same time).

This is the weakest section of the book, not because it's any less researched or well-reported than the previous sections, but because it has only a few tenuous connections to the average American diet. Most people don't eat sit-down restaurant meals as an everyday occurrence (fast food or takeout yes, sit-down no), so the real significance of these restaurants is how they shape food culture beyond their own walls, and McMillan doesn't really get into that at all.

McMillan's job as an expediter involves no actual contact with restaurant patrons, so she never has the opportunity to talk to them or get any firsthand accounts about what draws them to Applebee's. She notes in passing that "the patrons are mostly casually dressed Hispanics and blacks, not the pallid Midwestern tourists I expected," and that this is true of every New York Applebee's, even in the heart of Midtown Manhattan's tourist district. But she never digs into *why* people go there, which to me felt like a missed opportunity. There's some limited discussion of the cultural space occupied by casual sit-down chains (first Howard Johnson's, then the TGI Friday's/Applebee's model), but the book never goes deep on that.

It also doesn't go deep on the dietary impact of the foods these chains mass-produced and popularized from coast to coast. McMillan is more interested in studying the cog-ification of Applebee's "cooking," which essentially means selecting from pre-packaged, pre-portioned microwaveable meal parts, microwaving them (generally in their plastic bags, which are not designed to withstand microwave heat and frequently fall apart, leaving plastic fragments in the food that the cooks have to pick out), and assembling them on the plates. Most of the sauces are powdered or concentrated-goop "just add water" formulas, the pastas come pre-cooked in microwave bags (one cook reminisces fondly about his previous job working in a real restaurant, where they cooked the pasta "in water" instead of just nuking it), and the whole operation has been streamlined as much as possible so that no actual cooking skills are required to work in an Applebee's kitchen.

But why does this *matter*? McMillan never really gets into it -- what it means for a society when even people who "cook" for a living don't necessarily have to know anything about cooking, how these dishes have to be engineered with hefty loads of salt, fat, and sugar to compensate for their lack of freshness (and even then are super bland, although to some extent that's by design), or how that shapes the population's tastes and expectations. That was a disappointment to me too. McMillan *observes* these things, but kind of just notes them in passing without digging in.

So mostly this chapter comes off as a milder, toned-down Kitchen Confidential, which is... fine, but it's kind of a bummer when Eater is putting out more insightful pieces on sit-down casual chains than you're writing up after two months working in the kitchen of one.

This section ends on a dark note when one of McMillan's co-workers (who is never identified) slips her a roofie at her goodbye party. Another co-worker tasks a third (female) co-worker to "keep an eye on" McMillan, but never tips her off as to why exactly he thinks McMillan needs the help. So the female co-worker escorts McMillan out of the party and sends her on her way without further ado, and theoretically everything *would* have been fine from there (since the roofie guy got blocked), but then a totally different rando spots an opportunity and sexually assaults a blacked-out McMillan (who remembers none of this and finds out about it later from her friends). McMillan does her best to report this to police, but since she can't actually remember anything, the case doesn't go anywhere.

This part gets into some interesting discussion about the dynamics of sexual harassment and exploitation in precarious jobs (for example, why didn't the co-worker who saw McMillan get roofied take more aggressive steps to confront the poisoner or warn her about the danger? Probably because he was afraid of reprisal himself, since he didn't have much seniority or security, and couldn't afford to lose the Applebee's job). It's tangential to the main thesis, but it does underline the point that workers who genuinely depend on these jobs are often forced into silence and complicity even when they would like to stop abuses that they see.
User avatar
Merciel
Hipinion Dog Lady
 
Posts: 24586
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 5:06 pm
Location: dog dog dog

Postby Merciel » Fri May 04, 2018 2:26 pm

The American Way of Eating (4/4: Conclusion):

Tracie McMillan writes: "During my tenure in the fields, I made an effort to budget my money wisely. So I did what I had watched my father do every weekend as a child: I opened up the newspaper and I looked for coupons. In very short order, I confronted the reality most families deal with every day: There were coupons for Reddi-wip, for Chef Boyardee ravioli in a can, for envelopes of Orville Redenbacher's microwave popcorn, for boxes of Tusconi cookies. If there was a food manufacturing company with goods to sell, there was a coupon for what it sold.

But there were no coupons for something that America needs to eat far more of: produce, which is sold essentially in bulk and -- with a few notable exceptions -- doesn't carry a brand name. The Central Valley's bounty was all around me, fields of onions and carrots, almonds and oranges, but if I was looking for a deal I was left with Chef Boyardee.

This is just one of myriad ways that eating well is difficult in America. In addition to coupons being of little use when one hopes to eat healthfully, we can add to the list our stagnating wages, skyrocketing income inequality, and mushrooming health care costs; agricultural policies that pay farmers to exhaust our soils by growing food not to be eaten, but to be burned; an increasingly monopolized food infrastructure that gives the people selling our food little incentive to keep it affordable; and a population so strapped for time, cash, and know-how that cooking dinner becomes a Herculean task rather than a simple and necessary chore."

I quoted that section because, not being much acquainted with print newspapers or their coupons myself, it had never occurred to me that coupons are just one of the many insidious ways that capitalism pushes poor people into staying poor by making the less healthy choice easier, and the more healthy choice harder.

No malice guides this. There's no intentional design to it at all. It's just a byproduct of food companies' self-interest in pushing more profitable products, which happen to be the processed, heavily branded ones. But the upshot is that budget-minded consumers are both psychologically and financially nudged to think of these options as the best bargains: after all, that's where you can save money via coupons and time/stress via not cooking.

One of my big takeaways from _The American Way of Eating_ (and this is compounded by _Evicted_, which we'll get to next) is that in 21st-century America, Adam Smith's invisible hand of capitalism is a far less benevolent force than it was back when he was writing. It's just as guided by self-interest and blind to secondary consequences as it ever was, but its effects in this modern late-phase stage are much more harmful than they were in the mid-1700s.

It's possible to push back against this to some extent, but that requires a certain amount of time and information-processing savvy, then the ability to act based on that information, and if that were a tenable solution across the entire population then we wouldn't have these problems in the first place. Requiring individuals to opt out of a rigged food delivery system is (a) not a viable answer to societal problems (for the same reason that climate change can't be solved by individual people recycling cans: individual choices simply don't approach the power of collective actions); and (b) to the extent that it does imperfectly work, it's a class stratifier.

McMillan offers several possible solutions that show promise: government-sponsored universal coupons for produce (basically an enlargement of several localities' programs that enhance the value of food stamps used for produce at farmers' markets, thereby supporting small independent sellers and improving stamp recipients' diets); expanding community gardens and getting kids involved in them through school; teaching cooking skills and nutrition education in public school; treating food transportation and distribution networks like public utilities (e.g. water, electricity, phone service), which would allow private companies to continue earning profits, but would also mandate that their efforts reach out to smaller and less profitable communities so that everyone gets access to basic service.

All those ideas, however, would require some level of collective buy-in. And to get there, more people need to understand that many of the major problems with the American diet aren't just the products of individual bad choices (though there's certainly some of that), but are also nudged and shaped -- and in many cases, outright forced -- by the systems that we're in. And *that's* the part that we should find troubling, and should want to fix.
User avatar
Merciel
Hipinion Dog Lady
 
Posts: 24586
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 5:06 pm
Location: dog dog dog

Postby Merciel » Sun May 06, 2018 8:11 pm

Moving on to Evicted (2016):

Let's start talking about _Evicted_! Written by Harvard/Princeton sociologist Matthew Desmond, it came out in 2016 and won the Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction in 2017. It's probably the most Important book we'll cover in the Facebook Amateur Sociology project, at least in terms of critical prestige combined with mainstream cultural impact (this book got excerpted EVERYWHERE when it came out), but it's also just a really, really good read.

Desmond has a reporter's eye for spotting and capturing indelible images in words and using small, telling incidents to drive home the great themes of his work. He also has an academic's fondness for studies and a deep familiarity with the sociology literature on poverty and its consequences, so he can easily link individual stories to larger social contexts. Most of the authors we've been covering in this project write like academics, and can be a little dry or jargon-y at times. Desmond never is. His writing is genuinely excellent by any measure.

That's part of what makes his book a compelling read. The other part (the part that got him famous) is that apparently nobody had made a deep dive into the low-income rental market and its social effects before this.

So let's skip to the end and let a chunk of the book's epilogue set forth its scope and mission, and then we'll rewind back to the beginning and go through the story in order.

"Until recently, we simply didn't know how immense this problem [of eviction] was, or how serious the consequences, unless we had suffered them ourselves. For years, social scientists, journalists, and policymakers all but ignored eviction, making it one of the least studied processes affecting the lives of poor families. But new data and methods have allowed us to measure the prevalence of eviction and document its effects. We have learned that eviction is commonplace in poor neighborhoods and that it exacts a heavy toll on families, communities, and children.

Residential stability begets a kind of psychological stability, which allows people to invest in their homes and social relationships. It begets school stability, which increases the chances that children will excel and graduate. And it begets community stability, which encourages neighbors to form strong bonds and take care of their block. But poor families enjoy little of that because they are evicted at such high rates. That low-income families move often is well known. *Why* they do is a question that has puzzled researchers and policymakers because they have overlooked the frequency of eviction in disadvantaged neighborhoods. [...]

Along with instability, eviction also causes loss. Families lose not only their home, school, and neighborhood but also their possessions: furniture, clothes, books. It takes a good amount of money and time to establish a home. Eviction can erase all that. [...] Eviction can cause workers to lose their jobs. [...]

Often, evicted families also lose the opportunity to benefit from public housing because Housing Authorities count evictions and unpaid debt as strikes when reviewing applications. And so people who have the greatest need for housing assistance -- the rent-burdened and evicted -- are systematically denied it.

This -- the loss of your possessions, job, home, and access to government aid -- helps explain why eviction has such a pronounced effect on what social scientists call 'material hardship,' a measure of the texture of scarcity [i.e., whether you experience hunger or sickness because you cannot afford food, medical care, heat, electricity, etc.] [...]

And families forced from their homes are pushed into undesirable parts of the city, moving from poor neighborhoods into even poorer ones; from crime-filled areas into still more dangerous ones. [...] Even after controlling for a host of important factors, families who experience a forced move relocate to worse neighborhoods than those who move under less demanding circumstances. Concentrated poverty and violence inflict their own wounds, since neighborhoods determine so much about your life, from the kinds of job opportunities you have to the kinds of schools your children attend.

Then there is the toll eviction takes on a person's spirit. The violence of displacement can drive people to depression and, in extreme cases, even suicide. [...]

Eviction even affects the communities that displaced families leave behind. Neighbors who cooperate with and trust one another can make their streets safer and more prosperous. But that takes time. Efforts to establish local cohesion and community investment are thwarted in neighborhoods with high turnover rates. In this way, eviction can unravel the fabric of a community, helping to ensure that neighbors remain strangers and that their collective capacity to combat crime and promote civic engagement remains untapped. Milwaukee neighborhoos with high eviction rates have higher violent crime rates the following year, even after controlling for past crime rates and other relevant factors.

Losing your home and possessions and often your job; being stamped with an eviction record and denied government housing assistance; relocating to degrading housing in poor and dangerous neighborhoods; and suffering from increased material hardship, homelessness, depression, and illness -- this is eviction's fallout. Eviction does not simply drop poor families into a dark valley, a trying yet relatively brief detour on life's journey. It fundamentally redirects their way, casting them onto a different, and much more difficult, path. Eviction is a cause, not just a condition, of poverty."
User avatar
Merciel
Hipinion Dog Lady
 
Posts: 24586
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 5:06 pm
Location: dog dog dog

Postby Merciel » Sun May 06, 2018 8:12 pm

Evicted (Introduction):

_Evicted_ opens by introducing us to Arleen, a black single mother of two sons, Jori (age 13) and Jafaris (age 5), living in Milwaukee. In January 2008, they get evicted from a home they've lived in for 8 months after Jori throws a snowball at a passing car, the boys flee, and the driver gives chase, kicking the boys' front door down and then leaving. The landlord evicts Arleen for causing property damage.

Desmond introduces us to the options of "truck" or "curb": evicted tenants can choose between having their "things loaded onto an eighteen-footer and later checked into bonded storage," which means theoretically they can recover their belongings after paying $350. "Curb," the option chosen by tenants (like Arleen) who don't have or expect to get that kind of money, means that all her stuff -- even down to the contents of her freezer -- gets piled onto the sidewalk, to be moved by the tenant or collected by the city as trash to be hauled away.

Arleen opts for "curb" and moves her boys to a homeless shelter, "which everyone called the Lodge so you could tell your kids 'We're staying at the Lodge tonight,' like it was a motel." They stay at the shelter until April, when they find a house to rent. After a few weeks, the city condemns that house as "unfit for human habitation," and Arleen's family gets evicted again. They move to "a drab apartment complex deeper in the inner city," infested with drug dealers, and stay there for four months until they move into the bottom unit of a duplex about a mile away.

Here, "[t]here was a fist-sized hole in a living-room window, the front door had to be locked with an ugly wooden plank dropped into metal brackets, and the carpet was filthy and ground in. But the kitchen was spacious and the living room well lit." Rent is $550 a month, utilities not included, "the going rate in 2008 for a two-bedroom unit in one of the worst neighborhoods in America's fourth-poorest city." This is 88% of Arleen's monthly welfare check.

Arleen's landlord is Shereena, introduced to us as "a black woman with bobbed hair and fresh nails," who meets her new tenant with a load of groceries purchased with $40 of her own money and supplemented with donations from a food pantry: "She knew Arleen needed it."

After introducing these characters (and I'll call them "characters" throughout because, even though they're all real people, all the names are falsified and the details lightly fudged to protect their privacy), Desmond sets out the scope of his book. Evictions "used to be rare. They used to draw crowds. Eviction riots erupted during the Depression, even though the number of poor families who faced eviction each year was a fraction of what it is today."

But now, evictions are so commonplace they draw hardly any attention: "These days, there are sheriff squads whose full-time job is to carry out eviction and foreclosure orders. There are moving companies specializing in evictions, their crews working all day, every weekday. There are hundreds of data-mining companies that sell landlords tenant screening reports listing past evictions and court filings. These days, housing courts swell, forcing commissioners to settle cases in hallways or makeshift offices crammed with old desks and broken file cabinets -- and most tenants don't even show up. Low-income families have grown used to the rumble of moving trucks, the early-morning knocks at the door, the belongings lining the curb."

Desmond notes that most poor renting families in America spend "over half their income on housing, and at least one in four dedicates over 70 percent to paying the rent and keeping the lights on." Between formal court-ordered evictions and "informal evictions" like paying tenants to terminate their leases and just taking the front door off the house, "between 2009 and 2011 more than 1 in 8 Milwaukee renters experienced a forced move."

Desmond closes the introduction by laying out his central concern:

"Fewer and fewer families can afford a roof over their heads. This is among the most urgent and pressing issues facing America today, and acknowledging the breadth and depth of the problem changes the way we look at poverty. For decades, we've focused mainly on jobs, public assistance, parenting, and mass incarceration. No one can deny the importance of these issues, but something fundamental is missing. We have failed to fully appreciate how deeply housing is implicated in the creation of poverty. Not everyone living in a distressed neighborhood is associated with gang members, parole officers, employers, social workers, or pastors. But nearly all of them have a landlord."
User avatar
Merciel
Hipinion Dog Lady
 
Posts: 24586
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 5:06 pm
Location: dog dog dog

Postby Merciel » Sun May 06, 2018 8:13 pm

Evicted, Part One ("Rent"), Chs. 1 & 2:

This section picks up with Shereena, the landlord introduced previously, as she's preparing to evict Lamar, a legless Vietnam vet who's a month behind on his rent. We also get a brief backstory on the tenant who previously occupied the unit rented by Arleen (the single mom with the 5- and 13-year-olds); Shereena evicted that tenant because she was behind on rent and her mom called the city building inspector about a broken window, ultimately costing Shereena several thousand dollars to correct various code violations.

Desmond explains that many of these low-end properties are below code because Milwaukee has a stringent housing code and a large supply of aging, dilapidated housing stock, especially in the inner city. However, it's also because the landlords of these run-down properties don't invest a lot in maintaining them, and the tenants rarely fix problems either. Properties that were already below code to begin with tend to deteriorate over time, and are seldom substantially improved.

The upshot is that building inspectors are a major potential headache for landlords, as they may require repairs that cost more than the property is worth, or may condemn the building altogether. As such, the expectation is that tenants will call landlords to fix problems informally, and calling a building inspector is likely to get you evicted. However, if you're behind on your rent, the landlord doesn't have much incentive to fix the property regardless, since tenants' legal protections only apply if you're up to date on your rent. If you're already behind, your only real recourse with a disinterested landlord is to fix the problem on your own. Anything else, as this family learned, is going to get you evicted.

Desmond's introductions of Lamar and Shereena are both remarkably good, in that he's clear-sighted about the admirable and less-admirable qualities of everyone he profiles, and he sets forth their stories honestly on the page. Lamar served in the Navy during Vietnam, but there's no "thank you for your service" BS or glossing over the real story: we learn straight-up that Lamar never saw combat, didn't take his service seriously, used a bunch of drugs, blew all his paychecks, and got dishonorably discharged within a couple of years. He then started using crack, lost his middle-class civilian job to his addiction, and ultimately lost both of his legs to frostbite when he was so high on drugs that he passed out in an abandoned house one winter and was stranded for three days until he flung himself out the window.

Losing his legs served as a wake-up call, but a costly one. Lamar kicked crack, started getting his life together a little more, and ended up as a single dad to his two sons (whose mom was also a crack addict and couldn't care for them). Since he didn't work, he was able to function as a stay-at-home parent who watched over his boys and their friends, serving as a stabilizing influence in their lives. But, since he didn't work (and had no legs), he couldn't easily make up the rent shortfall when he accidentally received two welfare checks one month, cashed and spent them both on necessities, and then learned that he was expected to repay the duplicate check with money he didn't have.

Lamar tries to work off his rent shortfall by doing odd errands for Shereena, but runs into two problems: (1) despite his earnest best efforts, he just isn't that much of a handyman, and his work isn't very good; and (2) Shereena can always hire someone else to do it cheaper (there's no shortage of addicts in the inner city willing to do manual labor for well below market wages), so the value of the work she *does* accept is not enough to make up what Lamar owes her.

And so, after letting the debt ride for a while, Shereena evicts him. Desmond sets out the unforgiving calculus of such decisions:

"There was no hedging in this business. When a tenant didn't pay $500, her landlord lost $500. When that happened, landlords with mortgages dug into their savings or their income to make sure the bank didn't hand them a foreclosure notice. There were no euphemisms either: no 'downsizing,' no 'quarterly losses.' Landlords took the gains and losses directly; they saw the deprivation and waste up close. Old-timers liked recalling their first big loss, their initial breaking-in: the time a tenant tore down her own ceiling, took pictures, and convinced the court commissioner it was the landlord's fault; the time an evicted couple stuffed socks down the sinks and turned the water on full-blast before moving out. Rookie landlords hardened or quit.

Shereena nodded reassuringly and said, almost to herself, 'I guess I got to stop feeling sorry for these people because nobody is feeling sorry for me. Last time I checked, the mortgage company still wanted their money.'"

And, as we see over and over again throughout the course of the book, tenants caught in grinding poverty do bring a higher-than-usual rate of problems. "Drama" is endemic to their lives. Drug use is common, as is alcoholism. Volatile relationships are common. Most of the women get involved with violent and abusive men at various points in their lives (we'll get back to this later), and not a few of them get locked up for their own crimes. This is a deeply troubled population scarred with the traumas of generational poverty, and an honest assessment of the low-income housing situation would have to acknowledge that their landlords do carry additional costs as a result.

But, as we'll see, the current situation tends to exacerbate those difficulties rather than helping anyone climb out of them.
User avatar
Merciel
Hipinion Dog Lady
 
Posts: 24586
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 5:06 pm
Location: dog dog dog

Postby joe » Mon May 07, 2018 5:30 am

Following
dễ dàng wrote:CHẾT TIỆT
User avatar
joe
 
Posts: 16005
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 8:14 pm
Location: snake kingdom

Postby Merciel » Tue May 08, 2018 10:36 am

Evicted, Part 1, Chs. 3 & 4:

Desmond turns next to the face of white poverty in Milwaukee: the College Mobile Home Park, widely accounted the worst trailer park in the city, where "the druggies lived mostly on the north side of the trailer park, and the people working double shifts at restaurants or nursing homes lived mostly on the south side. The metal scrappers and can collectors lived near the entrance, and the people with the best jobs -- sandblasters, mechanics -- congregated on the park's snobby side, behind the office, in mobile homes with freshly swept porches and flowerpots."

Desmond briefly sketches out the history of residential segregation in Milwaukee, where white people first tried to keep blacks out of their neighborhoods via violence and intimidation (well into the late '60s), and then resorted to fleeing. The result is one of the most segregated cities in the U.S., even today, and when the College Mobile Home Park is threatened with a forced shutdown because it's become a haven for drug use, prostitution, and other nuisance offenses, "[t]hat was the heart of it, what trailer park residents feared the most. When Mary and Tina and Mrs. Mytes and the whole trailer park talked about having to leave, what they were talking about was the possibility of having to move into the black ghetto."

It's partly out of this fear, and partly out of gratitude for their landlord's willingness to work with them, that the tenants mobilize to defend their trailer park from the shutdown. Tobin, their landlord, isn't entirely heartless. He's implacable about demanding his rent money, but he lets some of his tenants work off debts they can't pay with cash, he bails them out of jail when they get picked up for drunkenness, and he loans them money for family funerals.

He also evicts troublemakers, meaning not only drug dealers and criminal nuisances, but tenants like Larraine, a 54-year-old white woman who lived on "SSI for learning impairments attributed to a childhood fall out of an attic window." Once vivacious and beautiful, she aged hard and now lives alone, suffering from fibromyalgia, unable to afford her prescription medications, unable even to afford to keep her utilities on. Having paid a backlogged gas bill in hopes of obtaining hot water (which she doesn't get, because she owes the gas company more than the $150 she could pay them), Larraine falls short on her rent and gets evicted partly because of that, but mostly because she let herself get interviewed on TV saying unflattering things about the conditions of the trailer park.

On the "drug dealers and criminal nuisances" front, Tobin evicts Pam and Ned, a white couple with five children (Pam's two half-black daughters from a previous relationship, her two daughters with Ned, and a third girl that Ned had by another woman, who abandoned her with Pam). Both Pam and Ned are crack addicts who use other drugs as well, and Ned's probably the least sympathetic character in the book: an openly misogynistic white supremacist who verbally abuses Pam's two half-black daughters in front of Desmond and "was the kind of man who took satisfaction in leaving the bathroom door open and scratching himself in public."

Pam, meanwhile, is a woman who appears to have made a career out of bad decisions and worse men, although her life's trajectory was hard from the start. She lost her mother to a car accident while she was in high school, and her father was mostly in prison on drug and drunk driving charges while she was growing up. Her brother was a heroin addict who died of an OD, and Pam herself spent years addicted to crack. Her first relationship, which produced her daughters Sandra and Bliss, was to an early drug dealer who beat her constantly:

"'Tell about the time that Dad hit you with a bottle and blood was coming out of your head,' Sandra once asked her mother as they drove to a food pantry. She was six when she said this.

Pam forced a sad smile. 'You weren't old enough to remember that. [...] Now, Bliss, she was. She got so used to it. She always saw blood just pour out of me.'"

Pam eventually managed to break free of that relationship, but remained hooked on drugs and eventually hooked up with Ned, too, even though he was a lifelong criminal who couldn't hold a job, was abusive to Pam and her girls, and cheated on Pam endlessly (before she loses her minimum-wage job to car trouble, she often comes home to find Ned passed out in her trailer with strange women). Drugs were and are central to both their lives, and suck away a great deal of their money.

Desmond never comes out and says it, but it's implied that part of why Pam uses is because it's how she copes with Ned, who berates her and blames her for everything bad that befalls them, including this eviction. Pam starts out trying to defend herself against Ned's accusations that the eviction is her fault, but ends by saying to Desmond: "I don't know. Is it really me? Is it me who has the problem? I don't know. Maybe it is. Am I the one that fucked up?"

Most of the desperately poor women in this book don't pick up their own criminal charges (Pam does, and there's one other notable female convict that we'll get to, but for the most part the women don't get locked up). But they almost all make terrible romantic decisions, and Desmond theorizes that this is part and parcel of what the world beats into you as a woman mired in deep poverty: that you don't deserve anything better, either in your housing or your men.


FOOTNOTE:

There's a lot of additional information in these chapters that I'm not including in these summaries, and I do strongly encourage anyone who's interested to go and read the book for themselves. It's a very good book.

In these summaries, I'm choosing to focus on individual people and their stories (versus telling you about Sherrena's landlords' association meeting, or Tobin's city board hearing, or the "free trailer/lot rent" gimmick at the College Mobile Home Park), because I think it's important to remember in policy discussions that we are, in fact, talking about real people and their lives being affected.

And therefore I think it's important to consider: what policy would best help someone like Larraine -- middle-aged, intellectually handicapped, physically afflicted with various ailments (obesity, fibromyalgia, etc.), prone to depression, and easily discouraged? (Learning disabilities and low IQ are another recurrent trait that we'll see again and again in these stories. Many, many people fall to the margins simply because it's a little bit harder for them to function in society, and they were born into a position where they didn't have any advantages to cushion that whatsoever.)

What policies would best help someone like Pam, who's struggling with a houseful of young kids (not all hers by blood, but all hers in responsibility), a drug habit, and a boyfriend who's part of the reason for that drug habit? One thing I kept thinking, reading her story, is that she and Ned are exactly the kind of people that drug screens for welfare are meant to kick out -- which is IMO totally deserved as to Ned, who's an asshat, but has the secondary effect of trapping Pam with him (because absent *some* kind of economic assistance, she's never getting away from him unless he leaves on his own; she's too financially strapped to make a go of it alone with all those kids). So then she's stuck with the abusive asshat and her five daughters all grow up thinking that's what relationships look like.

And so on. For purposes of policy hypotheticals, I find it most useful to focus on the stories and situations of the people likely to be affected, so that's what I'm tending to emphasize in these summaries.
User avatar
Merciel
Hipinion Dog Lady
 
Posts: 24586
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 5:06 pm
Location: dog dog dog

Postby Merciel » Wed May 09, 2018 4:47 pm

Evicted, Part 1, Chs. 5 & 6:

Chapter 5 returns us to Arleen, the black single mom, who begins making a home of her rented apartment: she spruces up the paint job, hangs up decorations, has her kids settled in the neighborhood school, even gets a kitten.

We also get her backstory: her dad ran out on her mom, her stepdad was a minister who molested her, she dropped out of high school and ran away from home at 17. Arleen had a string of relationships with violent men, men who went to prison, and men who ran around on her. She worked a series of menial jobs but quit whenever she got too depressed, which happened when her mom died and again when the closest thing to a decent man in Arleen's life left her. For the most part, she was subsisting on welfare, augmented slightly due to her chronic depression. Her welfare amounted to $7,536 per year, a figure essentially unchanged from 1997 until 2008.

Desmond writes: "For years, politicians have known that families could not survive on welfare alone. This was the case before rent and utility costs climbed throughout the 2000s, and it was even more true afterward.

Arleen had given up hoping for housing assistance long ago. If she had a housing voucher or a key to a public housing unit, she would spend only 30 percent of her income on rent. It would mean the difference between stable poverty and grinding poverty, the difference between planting roots in a community and being batted from one place to another. It would mean she could give most of her check to her children instead of her landlord."

At age 19, Arleen had lucked into a subsidized apartment, but moved out to be roommates with a friend without realizing how rare that opportunity was. For the next 20 years, she bounced around the private rental market, unable even to get back on The List (as it's called) for subsidized housing in Milwaukee (where, as in most places, The List has been frozen for years with thousands of families already waiting in line). At the time of Desmond's writing, Arleen still cursed herself for that decision, which was another example of the outsize consequences that seemingly small mistakes can have for the poor.

"Most poor people in America were like Arleen: they did not live in public housing or apartments subsidized by vouchers. Three in four families who qualified for assistance received nothing.

If Arleen wanted public housing, she would have to save a month's worth of income to repay the Housing Authority for leaving her subsidized apartment without giving notice; then wait two to three years until the List unfroze; then wait another two to five years until her application made it to the top of the pile; then pray to Jesus that the person with the stale coffee and the heavy stamp reviewing her file would somehow overlook the eviction record she'd collected while trying to make ends meet in the private housing market on a welfare check."

A little while later, a new neighbor -- Trisha, described as "illiterate and fragile. Jori once reduced her to tears by asking, 'You special or something?' But she was also laid-back and sweet" -- moves into the upstairs unit. They become friends, and Trisha eventually invents an entire elaborate backstory "about Arleen meeting Trisha's mother in prison, about Trisha waking up in the hospital and Arleen being there -- but it was all in Trisha's head. It was hard to know if she believed it or not."

Then Arleen's "sister" ("not in the biological sense but in the spiritual sense") dies, and Arleen hands half her monthly welfare check in for rent but the other half to the mortuary to pay for her sister's funeral. (The sister "had long been a sickly girl, overweight and diabetic," and she died young. It bears noting, as an aside, that because so many of the poor die young, their survivors are regularly burdened with both psychological and financial costs that people in more fortunate social circles don't have to even imagine.)

At the same time, Arleen's monthly welfare benefit gets cut because she misses an appointment with her caseworker. She had forgotten about it, and the reminder notice had gone to one of her previous short-tenured apartments, so Arleen never received it. This puts her further back with Sherrena, and so she gets evicted.

Chapter 6 introduces the Hinkstons, another family living in one of Sherrena's properties. Three generations of Hinkstons, totaling eight people (+/- friends), live in a single filthy, overcrowded basement unit. The plumbing often doesn't work, partly because it's old and partly because the Hinkstons are slobs, so they can't wash dishes, have to bucket out the toilet, and can barely take baths. The power gets cut when they can't pay their bills, and one summer everything in the refrigerator rots when they go without electricity for two months.

"The Hinkstons treated the refrigerator, sour-smelling and sitting tomblike in the kitchen, like they treated the entire apartment: something to endure, to outlast. It was how they saw the mattresses and small love seat too, each so deep-burrowed with so many roaches they planned to leave them all behind when they moved out. The roaches were there when the Hinkstons moved in: crawling the sinks, the toilet, the walls, filling kitchen drawers."

The Hinkstons had liked their previous apartment and had been steadying influences in that neighborhood, engaged with their neighbors and aware of events around them, but they lost that place after a chain of events that culminated with a building inspector visiting their property and issuing code correction orders to their landlord, who promptly evicted the family. The Hinkstons settle in Sherrena's property but treat it as temporary, only a stopgap until they move back to another "real" home. They don't bother to meet their neighbors here or even go outside much.

Desmond writes:

"A single eviction could destabilize multiple city blocks, not only the block from which a family was evicted but also the block to which it begrudgingly relocated. In this way, displacement contributed directly to what [Jane] Jacobs called 'perpetual slums,' churning environments with high rates of turnover and even higher rates of resentment and disinvestment. 'The key link in a perpetual slum is that too many people move out of it too fast -- and in the meantime *dream* of getting out.' With Doreen's eviction, Thirty-Second Street lost a steadying presence -- someone who loved and invested in the neighborhood, who contributed to making the block safer -- but Wright Street didn't gain one."
User avatar
Merciel
Hipinion Dog Lady
 
Posts: 24586
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 5:06 pm
Location: dog dog dog

Postby joe » Wed May 09, 2018 5:27 pm

Just finished reading your Unequal Childhood posts. Really interesting and I like your "cliffnote" style or whatever even if you don't.

This upshot is definitely the most striking to me:
Anyway, the conclusion of the book was that in 8 out of 9 cases, the kids appeared to be clearly on a path to mirroring their parents' life outcomes. This suggests that while there is some room for exceptional cases to move upward or downward, those are exceptions, and in general, for most people, the class you're born into will have a significant influence on the class you end up in.


It's not surprising in and of itself, but I hadn't really thought about the "parenting style" mechanism that was in place here. I do wonder, however, if the text is somewhat conflating less tangible parenting styles with the very specific actions that lead to higher ed, like being coached into the right classes and having the expectation that you will go to college. My guess would be that the "entitled" children style parenting is a potential outgrowth of having income security and education, not vice versa. If the causality is working in the opposite direction that seems very difficult to untangle! I would compare this with some second generation friends of mine who experienced heavy corporal punishment from their middle class and upper middle class families, but are also basically still following their parents' life outcomes.
dễ dàng wrote:CHẾT TIỆT
User avatar
joe
 
Posts: 16005
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 8:14 pm
Location: snake kingdom

Postby Merciel » Wed May 09, 2018 11:04 pm

Lareau definitely talks about both of those things at length in Unequal Childhoods, and they come up in other discussions of social capital transmitted across generations too. If those aspects aren't much talked about in the summaries, that's a fault of my summarizing, not of the source material.

The upshot of that book (in my reading) is that upper-middle-class kids are advantaged because they're taught from very young childhood to navigate and be comfortable with the same social norms and expectations that their parents are, which are the same social norms and expectations that govern all aspects of upper-middle-class interaction. In young childhood, that comes up as as willingness to voice your concerns to your doctor and ask questions. In adolescence and young adulthood, it's knowing which schools are worth the tuition and which are traps (some of the poor kids get tricked and ripped off by for-profit schools, which is a recurrent pattern in other sociological studies as well: it's always the hardworking, earnest poor kids who get ripped off by for-profit schools, purely because they don't know that those schools' reputations and credentials aren't up to snuff), knowing how to navigate the internship road to get a good job, etc.

It's possible I'm misreading your questions, though, as I'm not entirely sure what it is you're asking.
User avatar
Merciel
Hipinion Dog Lady
 
Posts: 24586
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 5:06 pm
Location: dog dog dog

Postby joe » Thu May 10, 2018 12:38 am

Thanks for responding! I think I understand the mechanism from your summary and your post. In fact, that's what I found to be the most novel aspect of the book! My curiosity is more whether that is a bit of a "hindsight/reverse causality" story with regard to younger children/child-rearing portion. This isn't to say I'm rejecting Lareau's argument (or expecting you to defend or speak for her), just posting the questions about cause and effect that come to mind when I'm reading your summary.

Specifically:
The poor and working-class kids, on the other hand, generally don't interrupt adults or carry themselves with as much confidence. Taught to be polite and respectful, they're more likely to go through interactions with adults without asserting themselves, and to feel confused and frustrated afterwards because they weren't able to get their concerns addressed effectively. These patterns often continue to hold true for them as adults. They can't move as easily into leadership or management positions, and they often feel like people in positions of authority don't take them seriously.


The anecdotal counterexample in my mind was many of my friends and colleagues from HS and beyond who were raised within that "traditional" context (generally 2nd-3rd generation Americans) and didn't have helicopter parents, but were in relatively educated middle class+ households. Their opportunities and outcomes, unsurprisingly, largely mirrored my own in spite of my opposite hippy household experience. Where we were largely similar was the expectation (and familial knowledge) of college and the existence of that family financial safety net.

My thought is along these lines. We see that many middle class+ families have moved away from "traditional" parenting (discipline, corporal punishment, unconditional deference to authority). Their kids are successful in the modern economy along similar lines as their parents, so we then infer that part of this success is due to that movement away from traditional parenting and characteristics it might support. Instead, perhaps, education, income, and an associated embrace of social liberalism lead many middle and upper class families to move away traditional parenting thus creating a false positive. Their success is driven by income and education not liberal parenting, which is arguably a newer phenomena.

I wonder if had a poorer child behaved in a similarly assertive fashion with their teachers and doctors they may have been punished/rejected due to being unconsciously "classed" by doctors seeing them, attending a school with harsher discipline policies, and/or using what is perceived to be lower-class grammar in those interactions. Again, this isn't rejecting Lareau's take, merely reframing it in my mind as more the cultural transmission of education (which she clearly discusses at length) and less the "nontraditional" parenting aspects that are brought up.
dễ dàng wrote:CHẾT TIỆT
User avatar
joe
 
Posts: 16005
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 8:14 pm
Location: snake kingdom

Postby joe » Thu May 10, 2018 12:40 am

Also, I am pro hippy parenting
dễ dàng wrote:CHẾT TIỆT
User avatar
joe
 
Posts: 16005
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 8:14 pm
Location: snake kingdom

Postby joe » Thu May 10, 2018 2:08 am

your second book review has quite the gutpunch:

And they're not giving up much to get it. Edin and Kefalas note that "early childbearing is highly selective of girls whose other characteristics -- family background, cognitive ability, school performance, mental health status, and so on -- have already diminished their life chances so much that an early birth does little to reduce them farther." The research indicates that "[d]isadvantaged girls who bear children have about the same long-term earnings trajectories as similarly disadvantaged youth who wait until their mid or late twenties to have a child." In other words, they're really not losing anything.
dễ dàng wrote:CHẾT TIỆT
User avatar
joe
 
Posts: 16005
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 8:14 pm
Location: snake kingdom

Postby Buddy Glass » Thu May 10, 2018 2:48 am

Posting to follow!
What became of her? She lived, as she liked to say, off the kindness of gentlemen. I assume she’s dead.
User avatar
Buddy Glass
 
Posts: 14232
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 4:30 pm
Location: Le vide politique

Postby Merciel » Thu May 10, 2018 11:26 pm

Evicted, Part One, Chs. 7 & 8:

Chapter 7 returns us to the College Mobile Home Park and introduces another pair of tenants: Scott and Teddy, who share a trailer. Scott is a gay 38-year-old former nurse with "a gentle, broken spirit" who became addicted to opiates and lost his license after being repeatedly caught draining his patients' fentanyl patches. Teddy is straight and a "small man, bone thin, with scabbed-over arms displaying shriveled tattoos" who's been alcoholic and street homeless for years and looks much older than his 52 years. They live together mostly because Scott likes taking care of Teddy -- it gives him a sense of purpose and draws on his long-dormant nursing skills -- and Teddy's inclined to let him.

They get evicted after letting Pam and Ned stay over for a few days, since the terms of their lease don't allow longterm guests. Teddy eventually leaves to live with his relatives in Tennessee, abandoning Scott to fend for himself. The other trailer park occupants, seeing Teddy leave, scavenge their shared trailer while Scott's at work and steal many of his belongings.

For a little while, Scott makes some under-the-table money working with an informal crew emptying out foreclosed houses. The last of these houses is described in painful terms:

"From the outside, it had looked like any other house. But inside, [Scott] had found a stripper's pole attached to a homemade stage encircled by couches. Hard-core pornography was strewn about everywhere. There were three bedrooms upstairs. Two were covered in more smut. Scott opened the door to the third and stared down at a twin bed, toys, and half-finished homework.

Most abandoned homes left him few clues about the people who lived there. As he went about his work, Scott would fill in the rest, imagining laughter around the dinner table, sleeping faces in the morning, a man shaving in the bathroom. This last house told its own story. Thinking of that one bedroom, Scott sat down on his empty floor, in his gutted-out trailer, and wept."

After introducing Scott and Teddy, Desmond shifts focus to the screening process that landlords use to reject potentially problematic tenants: checks on criminal and eviction records, credit reports, debt histories, personal and employment references, and then the personal mannerisms that the prospective tenant displays when interacting with the landlord and checking out the property.

Desmond writes:

"The small act of screening could have big consequences. From thousands of yes/no decisions emerged a geography of advantage and disadvantage that characterized the modern American city: good schools and failing ones, safe streets and dangerous ones. Landlords were major players in distributing the spoils. They decided who got to live where. And their screening practices (or lack thereof) revealed why crime and gang activity or an area's civic engagement and its spirit of neighborliness could vary drastically from one block to the next. They also helped explain why on the same block in the same low-income neighborhood, one apartment complex but not another became familiar to the police."

Chapter 8 takes us to eviction court (where Sherrena is evicting Arleen) and walks us through both the formal process of an eviction hearing and various less-formal alternatives that landlords and tenants broker between themselves in the hallways, sometimes with the assistance of a court commissioner and sometimes without.

"In Milwaukee's poorest black neighborhoods, eviction had become commonplace -- especially for women. In those neighborhoods, 1 female renter in 17 was evicted through the court system each year, which was twice as often as men from those neighborhoods and nine times as often as women from the city's poorest white areas. Women from black neighborhoods made up 9 percent of Milwaukee's population and 30 percent of its evicted tenants.

If incarceration had come to define the lives of men from impoverished black neighborhoods, eviction was shaping the lives of women. Poor black men were locked up. Poor black women were locked out."

There are a number of reasons for that discrepancy. Two of the main ones, as we'll see later in the book, are that women tend to be the ones on the lease because men with criminal records (which encompasses a lot of poor black men) often can't rent in their own names to begin with, so they stay with female friends -- and their misbehavior often causes the female tenant to be evicted. Another major reason is children, who quite frequently get their parents evicted (as we saw in the beginning with Arleen and the snowball).

And another reason, which will also be later elaborated on, is that the tenants who rent in the black ghetto are the most desperate and disadvantaged of all. Almost every tenant, regardless of race, tries to rent in majority white or Hispanic neighborhoods first. But landlords screen for race along with all their other factors -- some explicity, some through implicit bias, some not at all except by proxy measures like criminal record and eviction history -- and the upshot is that Milwaukee's black ghetto truly is a ghetto, where no one stays unless they can't get a place anywhere else at all.

Which means, among other things, that those are the poorest and least stable tenants, and the most likely to be evicted, with all the corresponding social ills we've been discussing.
User avatar
Merciel
Hipinion Dog Lady
 
Posts: 24586
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 5:06 pm
Location: dog dog dog

Next

Return to Mamma Mia... Here We Go Again....

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: a-10 warthog champion, all day breakfast, becky, Big Oil, brentwurst, brittle, bro tones, cartola, Colonel Longshanks, comet, Cone, coop, crooked, CudNylon, DasLofGang, Dead_Wizard, deadbass, dimetrodons 'r' us, donna martin, doormat, doublethink0, dreamshake, Endtro, Eyeball Kid, Flossed Out, fresh salad, future rhombus, gallits, Gehrig Industries, goofjan, Google [Bot], Google Adsense [Bot], grace cathedral park, Grumby, hbb, head gardener, inmate, iwillneverpost, jack, jalapeño ranch, jeffins, jewels, joe, Jsn, kayke, kirito, Legion, loaf angel, manierisme, mchamartin, Merciel, Mesh, mesic, milknight, Mr Squishy, murderhorn, My Pal the Crook, my piano, NegativeCapability, neta, No Good Advice, normal finkenstein, odilon redon, Paul, Phil, Poptone, Rainbow Battle Kid, rich uncle skeleton, sassafras socks, Science, screaming emphysema, shizaam, Shotfrog, sleep maps, someguy, SonicBoom, southpaw, speakers, springheeljack, Tar Pit, tex porneau, tgk, the scofflaw, tolka, transitive, trigross, trouble, turquoise albino, TwoInchesOfTrouble, uncledoj, universe, walt, warmjets, Warrenandstimpy, WeirdJungle