One of the problems for Sociologists analyzing social data is that people tend to “false report” when surveyed. One perfect example is that people tend to put themselves into a higher socioeconomic status than what they are really in. People like to say that they are “middle class” when their income just doesn’t support such a conclusion. Getting to define their own situation, people feel better about their status when they false report. The result is that Sociologists often have to rely on economic data to determine social facts.
For example, since 2000 we’ve known that people with less than a Bachelor’s degree were likely to work in service jobs paying minimum wage. This definitely makes them lower class. Yet in 2008, 76% of such people reported being “middle class.”
Now it seems, that people are waking up to his or her own situation. A Pew Research report shows that more people are identifying themselves as lower class. Young people in particular have doubled the rate of classifying themselves as lower class from 2008. And those 76% of service workers with less than a Bachelor’s degree claiming that they were middle class has dropped to 51%.
Here’s what the overall trend looks like:
And in this Pew survey from last summer, 85% of those who identified themselves as middle class said that it was more difficult to maintain their standard of living – which was pretty poor to begin with because of false reporting.
Marx posed the idea that the proletariat had a false consciousness because the Bourgeoisie commanded the class-consciousness. The owners of production were aware of their class, and the workers were not. His idea was that revolution happened (in part) when the workers became aware that they were being exploited; class consciousness.
I do not agree with Marx that revolution is inevitable. As history has shown us, there’s no such thing as a “sure thing” in sociology or economics when predicting human behavior. However, a large number of people are waking up to their own condition, as a result of very real personal consequences. The owners of capital are losing control of class consciousness, and reality is setting in.
As an academic, I do love the scent of a paradigm shift in the air.