As of the time of this post there have been almost 850 views of the blog, and almost 80 responses to the survey! But hardly anyone has posted comments yet… How about you check out this post then write a comment below? Pretty please?
This is my first post reporting back on the results of the survey – there’s just so much here it’s been a little hard figuring out how to share it. I ended up editing and updating the survey several times as people gave me suggestions, so I’m looking at four slightly different versions. In this post I’m going to talk about who has responded so far.
In future posts I’ll share stuff on:
• What kinds of jobs people are doing and have had, and what models there are out there for making an honest living
• How people make decisions about how to support themselves
• How folks think their race, class gender, education, parental situation, and age have impacted their experiences
• How people have support around this stuff and what processes people have used for figuring it out
Who Has Responded
I’ve been really pleased with how many people have responded as of today (almost 80) and what a wide range of folks have responded, though more responses are always welcome! Its all been interesting but I think folks’ responses to the question “Describe your class background” was probably the most interesting to me (that part is at the bottom).
Places, Races, Genders, Ages
People have responded from: North Carolina, Vancouver, Palestine, Minneapolis, Ohio, Boston, China, The Bay Area, New York City, Hawaii, Kentucky, Mississippi, Denmark, France, New Orleans, Olympia, Ohio and Cuba!!! About two thirds of folks responding have identified as white, European or caucasian, and about one third as people of color, including African American/Black/African, Latino (Chicano, Mexican, mestizo, Puerto Rican) Asian (Chinese, Chinese-American, Korean, Eurasian), and Asian Indian. A little over half of folks identified as female/woman, a little over a third as male/man, and the rest (about 11%) as gender queer, androgynous, ambiguous or transgendered. Responders range in age from 21 to 65 with most folks being between 24 and 35.
About 10% of folks had a high school or two-year college degree; about 65% had a four-year degree, some of whom had taken a few graduate classes; and about 25% had an MA or PhD. Among folks’ parents or those who raised them, about 8% had completed less than middle school; about 30% had a high school or two-year college degree; about 20% had a four-year college degree and some of those had taken some graduate classes; about 40% had an MA or PhD. A friend of mine who looked this over pointed out that its interesting that while most of the folks who responded had four year degrees, many more of their parents or those who raised them either had two-year or college degrees or graduate degrees. Why could that be?
Parental Status and Dependents
Unfortunately as a person without kids (at least yet) myself, and not responsible for supporting any other friends or family, I didn’t think to put a particular question about children or other dependents until a later version, which only twelve people responded to. Two of those had dependents, plus five other people in a previous version mentioned having kids or older relatives they were responsible for. But there may be more than seven folks if some people didn’t bring it up in the earlier version.
The question “Describe your class background” was the most interesting for me to look over. People wrote more here than in any other question of the “A Little Background on You” section and people’s responses varied wildly and were super creative, most were several sentences long.
Here are a few examples of some of the things folks said about their class background (in most cases excerpted from something longer):
• Lower than middle class: po’
• Wealthy, owning class
• FoOd stamps aNd goVernMent cHeesE
• Grew up in a comfortable middle class home
• Born poor white trash but over the years have shifted greatly
• UpPer mIddLE
• Middle middle class
• Low income
• Raised managerial class under the guise we were “middle class”
• Educated Working Class
Using Betsy Leonard Wright’s definitions and trying to combine how folks described their class background with the jobs and education their parents had, I would say about 30% of folks could be identified as working class/poor/low income, about 60% of folks could be called middle class, and about 10% as owning class/wealthy/upper class, though of course this is based on my analysis of people’s own reporting, so could be pretty skewed.
It was really interesting to me to see how little common language we have around class, probably because we don’t tend to talk about it that much in this country or in progressive/radical activist circles. I think it also speaks to how complex class is, and how confused a lot of us feel about class and our own class identities, which often gets tied in with our confusions about honest living issues. In her book Class Matters: Cross-Class Alliance Building for Middle-Class Activists, Betsy Leonard Wright says “class in the US is a confusing and slippery topic” and explains that most people are unsure about where they fit in the overall wealth and income distribution. On her wonderful website, she provides a “reality check” on wealth and income in the US that I found super interesting. Her book and website are really worth checking out!
Clearly its kind of awkward and doesn’t reflect people’s lived experiences to split up these categories as if they don’t relate to each other. For example, being a white 40 year old single dad with a five year old and a two-year college degree has a certain effect on someone’s honest living process, while being a single Black woman with a PhD whose parents didn’t get more than a high school degree is something else, not to mention any number of other factors. What I’m trying to say is that all these different categories interact in complex shifting ways that aren’t easy to analyze or pin down. What I got was a snapshot of how folks answered questions based on how I wrote them, and whatever was going on for them that day. Looking at the rest of the answers to survey questions, there were some places that it was really clear people’s race, class, gender and other pieces of identity had really shaped their experience, while in other places it wasn’t so easy to tell what was going on. I’ll be posting more about the other questions and how they connect with all these demographics in future posts in the next few days!