Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Coin Flip metaphor for Deviance and social class; Heads I win, tails you lose

Today we wagered on flipping pennies in class. The exercise was a metaphor for deviance and social class. The exercise resembles real life in a number of ways:
It had the appearance of being fair and equal - everyone had a 50% chance of winning. However, the way the rules are written, the money will flow to the top with just a few having most coins and most people having very little.  The more money you have the more opportunities you have.

Most U.S. citizens do not like the idea of social class. They will not acknowledge the rules that create the distribution of wealth that we see in the exercise. But the reality is that our wealth and even our income in the U.S. resembles that of the coin flip metaphor; a few individuals at the top with enormous wealth and income and most people at the bottom making very little (comparatively).
Here is a graph of the real distribution of income in the US.  Notice how closely it resembles the coin flipping metaphor:

And the "rules" of our society help to create that dynamic. By "rules" I mean the opportunities and obstacles that we face based on our social class.


These rules can also be applied to what we have been talking about regarding deviance. One example is William Chambliss's study of The Saints and Roughnecks.  Those with money are able to stay clear of the criminal justice system while the majority of those who are locked up in prisons are citizens with low income.(see this study from the Chicago Urban League for more on that) As I mentioned in an earlier post:

Wealthy crimes are generally "white collar" crime, esp. corporate crime. Instead of white collar crime, our society tends to focus on street crime such as robberies, murders, rapes. The media contributes to this b/c it is action-packed, full of emotion (fear), and personalized (it tells a good story). On the other hand, white collar crime is boring (numbers & statistics). But the reality is that it is more costly ($400bil). One example is Sears which defrauded poor customers of over $100 million. They pled guilty and avoided a trial; other companies settled out of court for similar practices. Firestone executives let faulty tires remain on U.S. vehicles even though they had been recalled in other countries. About 200 people killed. Under federal law, causing the death of a worker by willfully violating safety rules is a misdemeanor and punishable by up to six months in prison. Powerful people bypass the courts and are usually fined – no jail.

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