Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Coin Flip Metaphor for Social Class

Today we wagered on flipping pennies in class. The exercise was a metaphor for social class.

The exercise resembles real life in a number of ways:

1. Like life in the U.S., the  exercise had the appearance of being fair and equal - everyone had a 50% chance of winning.  The U.S. is an open system - not a caste system or closed system of slavery.

2. However, our system is called a social class which is made up of unwritten rules.  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.  (See the graph at the right from here)

3. The more money you have the more opportunities you have.  Donald Trump's corporation filed for bankruptcy at least 4 times, but he had enough wealth and power and prestige to recover from the bankruptcies.

4.  The difficulty of the middle class.  Most Americans claim to be in the middle class.  People making $30K per year to people making $200K per year claim to be in the middle class.  However, defining the middle is difficult because there is so much money skewed to the top and there are so many people at the bottom.

To summarize, 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).

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.

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