Bookmarked: Class Matters

Welcome to my new series of short-form media reviews: Bookmarked, Screenshots, and Soundbites for books, movies, TV, music etc. I hope you find the format quick, interesting, and informative!

Class Matters by Correspondents of the New York Times

“Liberals say the findings are evidence of the need for better early-education and antipoverty programs to try to redress an imbalance in opportunities. Conservatives tend to assert that the mobility remains quite high, even if it has tailed off a little. But there is broad consensus about what an optimal range of mobility is. It should be high enough for fluid movement between economic levels but not so high that success is barely tied to achievement and seemingly random, economists on both the right and left say.”

-Janny Scott and David Leonhardt, p. 12

Who Might Enjoy This Book:

Topics such as class division, income inequality, and social mobility have become more and more interesting to me as I’ve entered “adulthood” (whatever that actually means). I would recommend this collection to anyone who would like an introduction to these issues. The book is written by journalists and is not as dense of a read as you might expect from say an academic journal article. This book caught my attention at a library book sale because it was $0.25. What a steal!

What To Expect (spoiler free):

This book was published in 2005, pre-recession, pre-Obama administration, pre-social media dominance, pre-Black Lives Matter–you get the picture. It’s not the most cutting edge collection of articles in the world, but you can still find interesting narratives and examples of how class structures have emerged in the early 21st century.

In true New York Times fashion, expect to find informative visuals of data interspersed throughout the text. With a total of 14 articles, there are a wide range of topics covered including how class impacts usage of the healthcare system and how symbols of status can change from hereditary to material. This book is easy to pick-up, put-down, and read during a quick break because of the writing style.

Where To Go Next After Reading This:

After reading this book, I want to find more reading material on the debate surrounding the legitimacy of “meritocracy.” I believe in the value of hard work, but I also believe that so much of success also depends on situational opportunities (some might also call it luck). I’d also love to find some reading that’s a little more current and perhaps something that actually acknowledges the race factor. Let me know if you know of anything!

When I Might Recommend This Book:

To be honest, I’m not sure that I would bring this particular book up in everyday conversation. Although many of the topics it covers are still relevant today, the past decade has changed the nature of the discussion of many of those topics. The statistics, graphs, and stories are interesting, but I wouldn’t be citing them at your next dinner party. (I don’t actually go to dinner parties where you cite the latest sociological statistic, but I’m just saying this in case anyone does…) I’d recommend this book to anyone who is just getting started on reading about class matters (pun intended).

Why I Bookmarked This Book:

The growing unhappiness between groups (or perhaps classes??) of people in our society is a current, real, and very divisive issue. The perception of having opportunities unjustly taken away or gained is something that seems to be at the heart of the issue. I feel like the inability to understand each other’s perception of justice is a huge problem that is undermining society’s ability to move forward together. Don’t ask me how to fix this, I don’t have the answer quite yet. I Bookmarked this book because I think reading different perspectives on changing class structures and norms (even perspectives from just 10 years ago) can teach me a lot about how we’ve come to where we are today.

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