Survey Results #1: Who Has Responded So Far

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).

worldmapPlaces, 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.

Education
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?

radicalbabyParental 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.

Class
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
• Middle

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.

classsvgIt 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!

Thoughts
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!

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6 responses to “Survey Results #1: Who Has Responded So Far

  1. Thanks for sharing those results Isabell! It’s all super interesting and I look forward to reading more about the other parts of the survey and more of your brilliant insights on it!

    • Yeah I’ve been enjoying reading through all the interesting things people have said! Its been a little overwhelming though trying to figure out how to present the info in a manageable format, share interesting quotes, and respect folks’ requests for confidentiality. I’m planning to post the next thing in the next few days!

  2. I had a really interesting conversation the other day with one of my friends here in Olympia about how people represent themselves. It resonates as I read these results.
    She got things going by saying “You’re the only straight, white, middle class, able bodied, Christian man I hang out with. I’m not sure why.”
    “You’re not sure why you don’t hang out with guys like me?” I asked.
    “No,” she said, “I know really well why I avoid people like you usually, I’m not sure why I hang out with you.” (We’re much more blunt about things sometimes out West)
    We concluded in the end that regardless of what filters of privilege you were or weren’t looking through, it’s almost impossible to build a foundation for lasting connection unless you keep it real about where you’re from to start out with. I’m glad you’ve set the stage for the results in that context.

  3. Thanks Evan. Yeah I’ve found being up front about where I come from is a lot more helpful in building trust with folks than trying to sweep my privilege under the rug. Glad you liked the post!

  4. Ah, yes, class identification in the U.S. – maximum confusion! (And, I think, not by chance, since it benefits the captalist system.)

    I grew up poor, white, and female – unawarely race-privileged and mostly aware that I was an underdog, and that life in “the land of the free and the home of the brave” was not even close to fair. Now I’m some form of middle-class: No degree, making good money in an insecure job, with some savings and lots of long-term debt from raising children as a single mom and from previous periods of unemployment.

    This may be too much a digression, but… Evan and Isabell, your comments about class identification stirred up questions in me about building trust, bringing trust, building alliances, etc. that are currently swirling around in my head and in my life. A recent realization is that I am always (always!) on the lookout for cues that other people recognize the struggles of people like me. (I don’t need to have a big discussion, just a signal or two, so that I can consider someone potentially a new ally, or conversely, someone to beware of.) For me, one of those cues is an up-front acknowledgment of someone’s own class background. I try to model that in middle-class-run meetings by coming out of the closet as a formerly poor person. This also has the fringe benefit of opening up connections with other poor folks in the room.

    What I’m trying to say is that people’s class backgrounds/attitudes are quickly obvious to poor people. Really, the question is not where you come from, it’s whether you’re conscious of and willing to do some work around your privilege, or not. The feedback I’m getting from people of color is that white people’s racial attitudes are quickly obvious to them, as well, so – a message to me – there’s no real point in pretending to be other than what you are.

  5. Per Stinchcombe

    The most fascinating thing for me about class identification is the disconnect between the term “middle class” and any reasonable notion of where the middle is. The graphic you posted shows it wonderfully: the “lower middle class” bracket clearly occupies what any reasonable person would identify as the upper middle of the spectrum, while the “upper middle class” bracket clearly has no connection to the middle at all.

    My favorite statistic on the subject is that around 95% of people, depending on how you phrase the question, say they’re middle-class or below, but 17% of people believe their income is in the top 1%. This means _at least_ 12% believe they’re both in the top 1% and in the middle.

    I think we tend to use “middle class” to mean “having access the sort of resources that a person has a right to expect” — for example, a secure and comfortable home, the ability to support one’s children through college, the ability to cope with personal injury or illness without financial ruin, a secure source of income which involves no physical or emotional damage — without realizing that these privileges are inaccessible to a majority of Americans.

    I’ve started identifying my background explicitly as rich in order to acknowledge that, although I don’t consider my parents’ standard of living excessive, their incomes as tenured professors are/were pretty far above the median.

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