February 25, 2005

What constitutes the “working class”?

Does anyone really know what is meant by the term “working class”? It is said that approximately 27% of black people are working class, while 24% of black people are poor, 44% middle class and 5% rich. Intuitively one can glean or visualize a picture of the extremes of rich and poor and hence the middle. However, exactly what does “working class” connote, being that it is a category that contains the second highest percentage of black income distribution?

I looked up the term and it has many different meanings. My general understanding, from summarizing the various definitions, is that working class is not just about income or wealth, but also about values and the type of work one does. In fact, based upon the definitions, one can have middle or lower class income, but be defined as "working class" and not poor or middleclass. Thus, the use of the category of middle class can and likely does have the effect of undercounting the number of black poor or black middle class, based purely upon the criteria of income and wealth. Can you guess which one would be the most likely undercounted? I can.

When the Unemployment rate is distributed from the Bureau of Labor Statistics each month, it purposely excludes the “discouraged worker”, from the count of those who are unemployed. Indeed, they are very much unemployed to such a degree that they have become frustrated and discouraged and have stoped looking for work. Hence, the government does not count them as being unemployed because they no longer are actively looking for work. Consequently, the unemployment rate is always higher than actually reported, due to the category of discouraged worker. In the same way, the term “working class” is likely used to lower the official rate of poverty.

People who work can and are often poor. The term working class intuitively sounds to mean the class of people who work, but it does not. It is one of those amorphous terms that are really also misnomers. People can work and be, rich, poor or middle class in income. I think what black people need to know, to measure our progress, is the income and wealth stratification of the African American. The “type” of jobs that black people do or the “values” that these black people hold, should not be mixed together with income and wealth metrics, as it is with the category of “working class”.

Obviously, the manipulation of poverty figures is of political importance. I hear coming from black conservatives that 76% of black people are not poor and hence their needs to be a shift in strategy away from the politics of the oppressed, which is championed by liberalism and current black leadership. However, there may be a lot more poor “working class” people, who simply are not being counted as poor because they are working or because of the type of work they do or the values they hold. The health and state of black America is likely being misrepresented. For that matter, the health and state of white America may be being manipulated by statistics and misrepresented as well.


At 9:20 AM, Blogger Faheem said...

You make interesting points and we can not ignore the reality of the working poor. This group of men and women by far out number any other group categorized as it relate to the work force and unemployment. The unemployment rate like many statistical analysis use a form of computing that takes into account several variables that by themselves are inaccurate thus the information output by using these variables will be just as inaccurate if not more. The government actually has a group called “unpaid family workers” who for instance helps around the house for 15 hours a week or more, and these people are considered employed. The biggest problem is that government data contradicts the condition of the people while the condition of the people is born from the reality they have to live with and thus the pundits look at government data and make bad conclusions because it does not depict the reality of the poor and working poor men and women.

At 1:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live in predominately black neighborhood in Georgia and the Walmart is always "crowded" everyday.

No one is rioting for food, water or shelter.

I see the brothers and sisters filling the barbershops, malls, carwash and clubs to capacity on the weekend.

Where do you live?


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