Poverty is an Equal Opportunity Discriminator

Statistics don’t always give us a complete picture of Social Facts. Sometimes they give us unique angles to look at Social Facts. So is a recent survey by the Associated Press that says 80% of Americans are financially insecure. The numbers are startling, and no doubt accurate. However the AP report tries to tackle the issue of race, rather than seeing that those who are poor, are becoming more equally poor across races.

Take the FRED chart on Gini Ratios between white and black workers, for example. 0= perfect equality, and 1= perfect inequality. These charts are startling:

gini white

Gini black

While the historical charts certainly do point to income inequality between blacks and whites, in today’s world, there isn’t as much of a difference. In 2002, the GINI difference was .037. In 2011, the GINI difference was .034. That means that the income inequality between blacks and whites is becoming less. A good thing, right? Not if you’re poor. If you’re poor, then it means that poverty is an equal opportunity discriminator.

The AP report, as with many politicians blame the decimation of “good paying” manufacturing jobs as a possible cause. Let’s take a brief history lesson: good paying manufacturing jobs were created by Labor Unions. The decimation of labor unions, it could be argued, also decimated the idea of “good paying”.

If the idea is true within the realm of the AP’s survey definitions, that 80% of people are financially insecure, then it has less and less to do with race, and more and more to do with overall income inequality; the redistribution of wealth to the top. The researchers who complied the data themselves state that a person’s life chances are now (statistically) more dictated by wealth than by race.

This is where Sociology could’ve used a little economics. Sociology guys (like me) typically are not taught how to use FRED (I discovered & learned it on my own during my research). But FRED could’ve given Sociologists this viewpoint of what was going on long before this survey data was complied.

As more and more people become more and more financially insecure, there is more and more potential for change in policy via the electorate. The election of Barack Obama showed us that class determines access to power (a-la-Max Weber) – even if it’s the lower class.

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This entry was posted in Political Economy, Race, Wages. Bookmark the permalink.

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