Monday, March 20, 2017


Yesterday we played monopoly with rules that more closely affect the real rules of the US class system. Players started with different amounts of income and different amounts of property; the upper-upper class started with the most, and the working class the least. They rolled the dice to see what class they were. I told them them not worry about who "wins" the game, instead just try moving up to the next level of class. Playing monopoly according to the rules of the U.S.'s class structure should have some revealing insight about the state of mobility within the U.S.'s class structure.

From the NY Times Upshot "Moving On Up: Teaching With the Data of Economic Mobility", this 2017 data allows students to explore how mobility works in the US.  Students can manipulate the dynamic chart to display different classes and gender or race and see how likely they are to end up in a lower or upper class.

From the Brookings Institute:

Recent studies suggest that there is less economic mobility in the United States than has long been presumed. The last thirty years has seen a considerable drop-off in median household income growth compared to earlier generations. And, by some measurements, we are actually a less mobile society than many other nations, including Canada, France, Germany and most Scandinavian countries. This challenges the notion of America as the land of opportunity.

And from the New Yorker,
“Social mobility is low and has been for at least thirty or forty years.” This is most obvious when you look at the prospects of the poor. Seventy per cent of people born into the bottom quintile of income distribution never make it into the middle class, and fewer than ten per cent get into the top quintile. Forty per cent are still poor as adults....The middle class isn’t all that mobile, either: only twenty per cent of people born into the middle quintile ever make it into the top one.

From the NY Times series about social class, this graphic shows that mobility does exist but one's starting point plays a strong role in where that person ends up.

Mobility in America tends to be within the middle classes (from working class to uppermiddle class). The wealthy class tends to stay wealthy and the impoverished class tends to stay in poverty, especially in comparison to other most developed nations.

When someone changes social class within their lifetime, this is called intragenerational mobility.

1. Was anyone from your group able to change classes?  If so, who?  What class?  If not, then who was the closest to moving up or down?

2.  Does your groups' mobility reflect the findings above from the Brookings Institute?

Social class mobility might also be  intergenerational mobility or structural mobility.   Intergenerational mobility means that the children of one group will have a different class than their parents.  This is much more common than intragenerational mobility.  My own family's history reflect this as well.  How has your family's mobility been? Are you growing up in the same social class as your parents? How about from your grandparents? Where do you see your future in terms of social class?
 Structural mobility is when the structure of society changes in such a way that a group is moved up or down.  For example, many people in the 1950s and 60s were able to finish high school and go right to work in a factory.  When those jobs moved overseas, many of those people were thrust downward.

3.  Tell the group about your family's intergenerational mobility.  Did they go up or down or stay the same?

4.  Using the monopoly game yesterday, what are some ways that we could exemplify intergenerational mobility and structural mobility as part of the game?

A second way that we can look at this simulation is in how players react.  Below is a TED talk about how people react to playing the game.  Think about how that reaction might show up in everyday life.


  1. Canada always rocks out in your examples, I love it.

    Anyways, as I said on my blog, my family has moved steadily up through social ranks throughout my life due to my father's hard work and skills. But, of course, it has been done in other countries - Canada and England to be exact. I feel that many people here have lived in the same house all their lives, or at least one similar to the original. But I'm sure most people's grandparents came from either another country or a tough background.

  2. Mr Salituro you wanted statistics....
    These stats are from the CIA handbook when comparing the standard of living and looking at GDP (per Capita) the
    US:$47,000 (2008)
    European Union:$33,400 (2008)
    As you can tell, the Standard of Living in the US is way higher than The European Union. Throughout the years, our standard of living has consistently been alot higher than that of the EU.
    As far as the Universal Health Care's not all it seems to be. First of all the funding for a system for that would come from who or where?
    Secondly, if you look at countries with Universal Health Care they have quotas for patients! For example if the quota is 15 and the 16th person in line happens to be very ill...too bad come back tomorrow. The system also fails when it comes to treating patients with serious illnesses. I know from first hand experience my grandfather died of cancer and due to the Universal Health Care. So in theory everything sounds good, like libertarians, however when things actually occur they don't work well. If this socialist society worked so well, how come it hasn't worked anywhere in the world!? And why are we all of a sudden on a kick to become like Europe?

  3. Social mobility: Richard Branson and Rockerfeller...perfect examples of socail mobility we don't talk about. There are thousands of people who also start out poor and make their way to be living the American Dream. We are quick to critisize our society and don't think about all the positives of our society.

  4. I really loved playing this game in your class!