Monday, December 30, 2013

iPhones and Social Class

Will Barratt, Ph.D.

In case you were wondering, Yes, there is a difference between iOS / Apple users and Android users.

According to Forbes Android made up 81% of devices shipped in Q3 2013.  Without question there are more Android phones and tablets on the market than iOS phones and tablets.  iOS and Android appeal to different market shares.

According to IBM Digital Analytics on 26 December, 2013 “iOS vs. Android: As a percentage of total online sales, iOS was more than five times higher than Android, driving 23 percent vs. 4.6 percent for Android. On average, iOS users spent $93.94 per order, nearly twice that of Android users, who spent $48.10 per order.  iOS also led as a component of overall traffic with 32.6 percent vs. 14.8 percent for Android.”

iOS users shop more and when they buy they spend more.

There it is.  Apple users, both phones and tablets, are the rich people.

But wait, it is more complicated.  Just because Apple users shop more spend more money doesn't make them richer, it only means that they shop more and spend more money.  Anyone who has compared the prices of laptops knows that Apple users are willing to spend more money.  So, why would Apple users spend more money per order, nearly twice as much as Android users?  Maybe Apple users are just more generous in their gift giving?  Maybe Apple users make meaning of objects differently than Android users and this is reflected in what they pay for their orders?  Maybe Apple users are in fact rich?  Maybe Apple users are just flashing their money to manage their relationships with other people?

The answer, the reason for Apple users amount per order, is certainly complicated.  You don’t get your own data, but you can interpret this as you wish.  There are certainly social class overtones of money and OS preferences.

Monday, December 23, 2013

5 Things you Need to Know about Social Class

Will Barratt, Ph.D.
Lotus Delta Coffman Distinguished Professor, Indiana State University

In school we only tell you what we want you to know.  Here are five things that you were never taught in school and that you need to know about social class.

1:  Social class is more than money.  Most people think that social class is money because it is easy to count.  If this were true then the truck driver wife and nurse husband would be in one of the upper classes and this is not true.  To think that social class is about money is the same as thinking that ethnicity is about skin color.  Measuring Socioeconomic Status (SES) typically uses educational attainment and occupational prestige.  These SES measures are related to money but are not themselves money.  Social class is about prestige, itself a fuzzy concept.  Different social class groups and different cultural groups have different ideas about prestige.  Bourdieu (1986) wrote that social class was about economic capital, cultural capital, and social capital.  He maintained that different forms of capital could be transformed into each other.  In the truck driver/nurse case above the couple is probably sees as lacking the cultural capital, knowledge and skills valued by the upper classes, and social capital, knowing the right people who have access to resources.

2: Social class is personal.  In academic venues economic and sociological ideas about social class hold sway and social class is seen as an economic or social force.  Societies and economies are the collective actions of individuals.  In reality we all have a social class identity in the same way we have a gender identity, ethnic identity, spiritual identity, and many more identities.  We have a social class of origin identity (where we came from), a current felt social class identity (what we think of ourselves now), and an attributed social class identity (what others think of us).  Homophily, birds of a feather flocking together, create social movements, and the collective actions of individuals create economies.  In reality social class is you and me.  There is no reality behind social class, it is all constructed at the individual level.

3: Social class is ubiquitous.  Colleagues remind me that ‘everything is gendered’ or that ‘everything is about race’.  Yes, and ‘everything is classes’.  Here is a simple experience.  Assign social class to each of the following: Martinis, Prozac, Beer, NASCAR, Tennis, Golf, Fishing, Hipsters.  The list can go on and on, but every time I ask audience members to assign social class they have no trouble.  The social class of beer is a trick question because the brand, not the product, determines the social class attribution.  In classless communist societies, I have lived in two, social class is often in the foreground.  Nicer fabric in school uniforms, better quality ball point pens for the military officers, neighborhoods for the better people, and segmentation of all kinds based on some notion of prestige are ubiquitous features of modern society, whether communist, socialist, or capitalist.

4: Social class is central to your life.  While most people don’t foreground social class the way they might foreground gender, or ethnicity, or religion, social class determines the way in which you perform your gender, your ethnicity, and your religion.  People in different social class groups have different ideas about gender roles, about ethnicity, about religion, about food, and whatnot.  Social class can be seen as a culture, as a group of people with shared ideas and values.  Social class determines if you go to college, where you go to college, and in large measure determines if you graduate – rich kids do better in college.  Social class determines what you eat and drink – see number 3 above.  

5: Social class is inherently hierarchical and inequitable.  Gender is based on biological dimorphism.  Ethnicity is based on place of birth and shared genetic characteristics relating to skin, hair, and eyes.  Equity is the goal in gender and ethnicity, and in other diversities.  Social class, because it is inherently hierarchical, will never succumb to social justice unless we do away with the idea of prestige, hierarchy, and social position.

What does it all mean?  We all co-create social class every minute of every day.  Social class is not some abstract out there, it is something that you participated in today.  When we arrange ourselves in social hierarchies based on popularity, or prestige, or college attended, or college degree, or height, or religion, or political ideology, or fashion sense we co-create social class.  I would challenge you to stop this but I don’t think most people can stop it until they become aware of their own role in co-creating social class.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Social Class Code-Switching or Trans-Cultural Communication?

Will Barratt, Ph.D.
Indiana State University

In linguistics the concept of code-switching is a standard way to discuss how people switch between languages.  This is a binary approach to being bilingual, first one language, and then the other.  This idea of code switching has also been used to describe how individuals switch behaviors in different cultural contexts.  When social class is thought of as culture, or rather a collection of subcultures arranged in a hierarchy of prestige, then code switching happens when an individual competent in two sets of cultural knowledge and skills switches between the two.  Code switching implies a complete change, as in language, rather than a modification.  Since social class subcultures are related then the switching is not so much a binary switch but an adjustment.  Nevertheless, new rules, behaviors, knowledge, and skills apply in a different cultural setting.

Recently (cite) the concept of trans-language has been put forward to describe a conversation between two people who both have access to the same two languages – they don’t switch the code but use to two whole languages in the conversation, each complete with their own meaning and subtlety.  This provides a more interesting and richer conversation that uses both languages.

As code switching was applied to cross cultural and cross social class culture / subculture communication, trans-language can be applied to culture as trans-cultural.  As people develop multiple languages they get better skills at trans-language in conversation.  As people develop competency in multiple cultures / subcultures / social class groups, they get better at the skill of trans-culture.  They have access to more ways to communicate and inter-relate with others who share the multiple languages, or cultures, in which they are competent.

So what?

College is an interesting developmental time.  Because of the number of diversities on campus many students have an opportunity to become trans-cultural, but not everyone takes advantage of that opportunity.  Using social class identity as an example will illustrate my point.  The first generation, low income, working class, poverty class, lower-middle class student comes to campus and is in constant daily contact with the majority social college students, who come from families where at least one parent has a college degree.

As a quick aside, roughly 25% of all first year students in college nationally are first generation, so 75% are not.  Roughly 30% of US adults over 25 have a college degree.  That means that around 75% of US college students come from around 30% of US families.  The reality is that most college students are from the upper-middle to upper class in the US.  There are campuses that are notable exceptions, having significantly more, typically state colleges with more open admissions requirements, or significantly fewer, typically highly selective campuses, first generation students.

Class consciousness is a way of life for students from the US underclass.  Class consciousness begins with awareness, and underclass students are immediately aware of their status when they come to campus.  Students from the underclass develop class competence in the majority upper-middle and upper class culture and sub-cultures.  This multiple cultural competence allows them to build trans-cultural skills in order to work with and across social class boundaries.

Class unconsciousness is a way of life for students from the US majority class.  They live in a social class bubble and much of the college experiences, staff, faculty, peers, and structures work to accommodate majority class students’ needs and to reinforce their social class norms.  These majority class students do not build trans-cultural skills because they do not seek to gain competence in another culture.

In the work force who will be more valuable; the student with trans-social class culture skills or the student unable to work with people from different social class cultures?

We know from research that students from the underclass graduate at a lower rate than student from the overclass.  Students from the underclass are at risk of graduation.  Students from the overclass are at risk in the work force.  Students from the overclass have economic, social, and cultural capital.  Because of their place in the majority on campus overclass students don’t experience diversity the same way as underclass students, and consequently have fewer learning opportunities.  This is the case for all majority and minority students.

Which is worse risk?  For me educational attainment is the foundation of economic, social, and life success.  But, how will we achieve an equitable world when members of the majority class are unaware of the inequities they perpetuate?

Friday, May 24, 2013

Etiquette and Campus

Will Barratt, Ph.D.

I found a great photo of a formal place setting recently with each plate, bowl, glass, cup, and utensil labeled and I posted the photo to Facebook.  Anyone can find such a picture by searching for images using some variation of the words formal, place, and setting.  It is curious that the first several hundred images show a European place setting.  When you add a nation to the search terms the pictures and diagrams remain largely unchanged.  The formal European place setting has taken over the world, easing out indigenous place settings.  I must admit that I do like the irony of the photo of a hot dog and bun on a plate with a knife and fork.

The short discussion of the photo on Facebook brought up the critical question: Where did these rules come from and why do we have them.  A dinner companion once regaled us with a story of a formal event that she attended annually in Paris, the purpose of which, she claimed, “was to set the table in such a way that no one would know what everything was for”. 

What is the purpose of formal rules of etiquette? 

The answer is simple and horrifying.  You, me, him, her, and everyone else is the etiquette police.  The purpose of formal rules of etiquette are to separate out the social classes.  Formal rules of etiquette are the rules of membership in the prestige social class.  When each of us participates in co-creating these socially constructed rules we are reproducing the social class structure of the world.  We are facilitating social injustice when we assume that everyone can, and even should, adhere to certain rules of dining.  Don’t forget that the formal place setting is designed around certain foods prepared in certain ways.  If your foods are different then you should have different formal place settings.  Many Asian cultures use chopsticks of some variety and this reflects food preparation practices dating back thousands of years.  Reliance on formal rules of dining behavior is one way in which social class is reproduced.  Even reliance on informal rules of dining behavior is one of the ways in which the social class hierarchy is reproduced.  Formal rules and formal utensils are for the upper classes and there are other rules and utensils for the middle and lower classes.  Internationally many of the formal rules are based on the European multi-utensil model in spite of long term dining practices with other utensils. 

Colleges and universities, institutions dedicated to helping students build intellectual, cultural, and social capital in order to build economic capital, don’t really help students learn formal etiquette rules.  While there are occasional etiquette dinners to help students who didn’t learn the multi-utensil dinner skills at home, attending a few dinners and learning to eat your soup by spooning it away from your body hardly offsets formal dining at home and at restaurants.  Dining halls on campus are more accurately described as market driven efficient feeding stations.  Finding a soup spoon among the utensils in a student dining hall is difficult. In reality, the people who manage student dining halls are very good at providing what students want to eat and the two plate sizes, two glass sizes, one bowl, and a knife, fork, spoon makes the whole process cost effective. 

Of course, exploring rules of formal place settings and etiquette are an entry way to exploring all of the formal rules of the social classes.  There are a myriad other rules, some quite secret, that act as membership rules for the prestige class.  The prestige variety of English, the posh or upscale accent, greeting rituals, dress codes, and oenological knowledge are other examples of prestige social class rules.  Having homogeneity of norms helps build and sustain relationships, whether these are language norms or dining norms.  There are dangers inherent when one set of norms is elevated as the formal rules.  I am not arguing against dining etiquette, I am fairly fluent in at least three styles of dining rules, I just want us to be aware that our participation in these rules has consequences.

So, wash your hands before you eat and then use your fingers.  Or not.  

Monday, May 06, 2013

SES is not Social Class

Will Barratt, Ph.D.
Indiana State University 

I went to a wonderful session at AERA 2013 on Improving the Measurement of Socioeconomic Status for the National Assessment of Educational Progress: A Theoretical Foundation that explored the traditional socioeconomic status (SES) measures of education, income, and occupation, while adding the interesting variable of census tract to reflect the concepts of homophily and location.  One of the presenters noted that these variables are not in themselves meaningful, but represent something deeper.  For me social class is the deeper reality measured by education, income, occupation and census tract. 

The Map and the Territory

“The map is not the territory, the word is not the thing.” Alfred Korzybski 
“The description is not the described.” Jiddu Krishnamurti
“We say the map is different from the territory.” Gregory Bateson

We all know that Korzybski, Krishnamurti, and Bateson are right, and then we merrily walk along the map, not the territory.  Because we measure SES by education, income, occupation, and perhaps neighborhood we tend to assume that social class is income, education, occupation, and perhaps neighborhood.  These variables are not social class, they are measures of social status.

A Little About Measurement

Some measures are direct, like age, but most measures are indirect; we measure what can be most easily measured, and not everything can be easily measured.  For example, intelligence is measured most easily using complex standardized assessments of many facets that researchers believe are, or are related to, intelligence.  The question remains open as to whether or not your ability to arrange blocks into certain patterns within a certain time is related to intelligence, some component of intelligence, something related to intelligence, or something spurious.  The concept of multiple facets of intelligence have been mainstream since the beginning of the intellectual assessment movement, so multiple intelligences is nothing new.  

The underlying argument of who gets to define intelligence moves us appropriately into cultural diversity and bias in measurement.  In defending the income bias in standardized testing the Educational Testing Service noted that:

Relationships between test scores and other factors such as educational background, gender, racial/ethnic background, parental education, and household income are complex and interdependent.  These factors do not directly affect test performance; rather, they are associated with educational experiences both on tests such as the SAT and in schoolwork.  

What is social class?

If SES is not social class then what is social class?  From my perspective social class is not education, income, or occupation, or even neighborhood, but rather like ETS I suggest that social class is what you do with and how you think and feel about your education, income, occupation, or even your neighborhood.  Like gender or ethnicity, social class is a social identity, a collection of learned mental and physical behaviors.  Social class is not something you have, it is something you are.  You have an education, an income, an occupation, and even a neighborhood.  But are you education, income, occupation, or a neighborhood?  

We measure what is simplest to measure, like arranging colored blocks into patterns, or education, income, occupation, and neighborhood as long as they are related to the underlying thing we want to measure.  The measurement is of the map, not of the thing. 

Social class is complex.  One way to define class is personal; social class is for each of us an identity and a culture.  It is far easier to measure education, income, and education than it is to measure identity and culture.  Not all upper-middle class cultures are the same.  There are many ways to perform female, or male, or transgendered, there are many ways to perform African American, or European-American, or Thai, or Han, or Hopi, and there are many ways to perform upper-middle class.  Measures for the performance of gender must be appropriately sensitive to variations in culture, region, ethnicity, and social class among other important life space factors.  There is no hegemonic masculinity or femininity in reality, the huge variability of masculinity and femininity makes that an inappropriate idea.  Without a standard definition of gender performance it is impossible to measure gender in any standardized way.  

Education, income, occupation, and neighborhood, traditional measures of SES, are not social class, but they are standardized ways to point a finger at it.  If I point at the moon with my finger, the moon is not my finger.  The map is not the territory and we need to stop acting like it is.  We need to pay attention to the social identities and cultures behind social class.  

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Curiosity about social class

Will Barratt, Ph.D.

Viewing the statistics for this blog have proven interesting to me.  Below is the data for February 12 - March 12 2013.

First, most of the pageviews come through Google searches around the world.  Second, the pageview count reflects the academic calendar in the northern hemisphere, with the most pageviews coming in February and March, which is typically when students are preparing their papers for a course.

Note that the keyword searches listed below are quite broad and that the 2128 pageviews for the month are not reflected in the search words.  Consequently people are finding this material through a variety of searches, and about 1/3 use Google in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, India, and the Philippians. 

For me the posts that get read are telling.  While I have posts on each of the five major social class groups, the post on "What are upper-middle class people like" gets more pageviews than any other group.  My guess is that people are doing mesearch and are trying to find out something about themselves and their social class group.  This goes along with the search words "middle class values", "what is my social class" and "what is upper middle class".

A consistent surprise is the search for "movies about social class" and the number of pageviews on the post of the same topic are telling.  This post is consistently ranked in the top ten, which leads me to believe that the list of films needs to be annotated, but perhaps people are linking to IMDB for more information on each of the movies listed.

A second consistent surprise is the lack of comments on blog entries.  While blogs have the capability for discussion and commentary my suspicion is that readers treat blog entries as text only.  While the occasional comments do pop up, they are often from people I know.

All time pageviews
At the bottom of the tables below is the list of all time pageviews by posts.  Since posting the topic "Why is social class important?" it has been widely viewed, which reflects my notion that people are increasingly curious about social class in their own lives.  The second most popular post is a surprise to me.  "An interaction model of social class" is kind of dry and academic and was written for people to understand the complexities of social class.  I am pleasantly surprised by the fact the people at least look at that material.

Scholarship and Blogs
We have had discussions on my campus, usually with only a few people in attendance since it is an odd topic, on scholarship and blogs.  Over 21,000 people have at least looked at my material.  Occasionally I will search to see if any of this material appears on journals or on line in any way and am often pleasantly surprised to see it referenced - sort of an Internet citation index.  The whole "Interaction model" has been copied and is available on a Non-US campus web site.  I occasionally find blog entries on US campus web sites and politely ask web editors to either take it down or ask permission, which I freely grant.

Does over 21,000 pageviews count as peer review of a sort?  

Social Class on Campus Blog Statistics for February 12 - March 12

Pageviews by Search Words
27 middle class values
10 what is my social class
8 what is upper middle class
7 characteristics of upper middle class
7 first-generation college graduates who become physicians reflect:
7 social class
6 occupational prestige rankings 2011
5 barratt simplified measure of social status
5 movies about social class

Pageviews by Post
165 What is my social class?
160 Why is social class important?
145 Middle-Class Values
118 Part 2 - Class Myths
111 The Barratt Simplified Measure of Social Status (B...
103 Part 1 - Introduction to social class
65 Unpacking Social Class Privilege
59 Social Class Cultural Capital Knowledge Quiz
46 Gender, ethnicity, and Social Class: Which is more...
39 What are upper-middle class people like?

Pageviews by Locations

1339 United States
124 United Kingdom
52 Germany
50 Sweden
45 Canada
45 India
26 France
17 Australia
17 Philippines
16 Brazil

Social Class on Campus Blog Statistics for All Time
Pageviews by Post

1376 Why is social class important?
970 An interaction model of social class
722 Unpacking Social Class Privilege
538 The Barratt Simplified Measure of Social Status
529 Social class in English language movies
438 Part 2 - Class Myths
426 What is my social class?
317 Part 1 - Introduction to social class
307 Left Brain, Right Brain, and Social Class
286 Middle-Class Values

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Is classism funny now?

Both of these images were found on Reddit/Imgur and labeled as about "White girls" which is in itself odd.  They are really about a specific social class performance of certain types of young people, not necessarily European-American.

How is this OK? 

Friday, January 04, 2013

Hipsters and Social Class

Will Barratt, Ph.D.

Every group has signs of group identity, cultural identification, and values certain types of capital.  These all reflect what is perceived as part of unique group identity and part of prestige and are used to set themselves apart from others.  Hipsters are no different and their cultural and iconic sigils can be seen through the social class lens of cultural capital.

How many hipsters does it take to change a light bulb?  
A really obscure number that you’ve probably never heard of.  

Cultural capital was brought into the discussion of social class by Bourdieu in Forms of Capital (1986) who proposed embodied, objectified, and institutionalized forms.  Seen from a sociological perspective these forms of cultural capital are part of normative culture for each group.  Countercultures and alternative cultures emerge with different forms of capital often chosen in direct opposition or contrast to perceived mainstream culture.  Marlon Brando’s character Johnny Strabler or Lee Marvin’s character Chino in The Wild One (Kramer & Benedek, 1953) were models of a specific type of motorcycle riding, leather wearing, law breaking citizens.  These bikers shared dress, norms, and values as well as normative behaviors.  Similar media counter- and alternative-culture characters have been iconic; Bob Denver’s portrayal of the beatnik Maynard G. Krebbs in The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis or any nerd in movies from Revenge of the Nerds (1984) to Accepted (2006) portray a set of norms.  Cultural capital provides those characters with identifiable values.

Hipsters, according to media reports and jokes, value obscure cultural capital, obscure numbers that you probably never heard of, and obscure technology like vinyl records and mechanical typewriters.  Nerds are portrayed as valuing technology and intelligence, beatniks as valuing casual dress, jazz, and poetry, bikers as valuing the rejection of mainstream ideas of behavior.  Their counterparts, people in the mainstream culture, are portrayed as valuing mainstream culture, mainstream social capital, and economic capital, all of which seem to be rejected by hipsters.  Hipster social capital only counts in the hipster community, and relies on obscure knowledge valued by the tribe.  Economic capital, the quest of working mainstream normal people, is eschewed, much to the benefit of humorists who note the cost of the cultural capital artifacts required for the hipster life. 

A defining characteristic of hipster culture is cultural capital which is defined by members of that group as a way to set them apart from others.  Social capital and economic capital are of secondary, tertiary, or even quaternary interest.  


Bourdieu, P. (1986). The forms of capital. In J. Richardson (Ed.) Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education (pp. 241-258). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. 

Field, T., Samuelson, P. (Producers), Macgregor-Scott, P. (Co-Producer) & Kanew, J. (Director). (1984). Revenge of the Nerds. US: 20th Century Fox.

Kramer, S. (Producer) & Benedek, L. (Director) (1953). The Wild One. [Motion Picture]. US: Columbia Pictures.

Shadyac, T. (Producer) & Pink, S. (Director). (2006). Accepted. [Motion Picture]. US: Universal Pictures.