Our Classless Society

When Restaurant Workers Can’t Afford to Eat

In July, the Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) of New York, an organization dedicated to improving wages and conditions for people who work in restaurants, released a report called “Food Insecurity of Restaurant Workers.” The report, based on surveys and interviews with people in the restaurant industry in New York and San Francisco, shows the ways in which the employment conditions of restaurant work make it very difficult for workers to feed themselves.

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A $455,000 Child Vs. A $145,000 Child

If you invested almost half a million dollars into raising one horse and only a fraction of that raising a second horse, you’d expect the first horse to do better in life, wouldn’t you? Be shinier, sleeker, more confident, faster. Maybe it would jump higher, eat more apples. Brush its own hair, I don’t know, whatever good horses do. Maybe you’d think of it as more valuable. But what about children?

High-income families who live in the urban Northeast, for example, are projected to spend nearly $455,000 to raise their child to the age of 18, while low-income rural families will spend much less, an estimated $145,500, according to the report.

Part of this can be chalked up to the astronomical cost of childcare, especially in certain regions:

In 2012, center-based care for one infant was greater than median rent payments in nearly half of the states, according to Child Care Aware of America’s most recent report. In Seattle, Britta Gidican and her boyfriend spend $1,380 each month on daycare for their 17-month-old son, just $20 less than they spend on their mortgage each month. “When I was pregnant I knew daycare would be expensive,” said Gidican, a public relations manager. “But I didn’t expect to pay two mortgages.”

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What Would You Do for $1000 an Hour?

In college, we spent a lot of time playing a fun game called “Would You Rather.” Like, “Would you rather have to vomit every third time you opened your mouth, or take a dump on your favorite professor’s desk chair?” Sometimes the questions went beyond bodily functions to money: “Would you rather steal $10,000 or have it given to you because a relative you loved died?”

Nowadays everyone just plays Cards Against Humanity.

Let’s be retro! Would you rather make $1000 an hour by shaving monkeys for use in labs, or by being Anthony Green, doing “guaranteed results” remote test-prep for Manhattan’s richest children and having to answer to their parents?

Green is one of the premier SAT and ACT tutors in New York. His company, Test Prep Authority, serves some of the richest kids in America. Using a student’s PSAT, the practice exam, as a benchmark, Green promises he can help raise scores an average of 430 points on the SAT (and 7.8 points on the ACT) — “higher than any other tutor, class, or program in the country,” according to his website. That promise seems to be enough for his well-heeled clientele. And for this very small but wealthy minority, money is truly no object. Green charges $1,500 for 90 minutes of one-on-one tutoring, and he insists on a minimum of 14 90-minute sessions, with very rare exceptions. What’s more, the sessions happen exclusively over Skype. Green’s pupils have never stepped foot inside of his eclectically decorated townhouse.

In the article, Green acknowledges that the system is broken, that the SAT is a “blatant class indicator” and “the entire system of standardized tests and higher education is completely ridiculous and ludicrous.” But as long as that system exists as a supposedly “objective” way of sorting students, he will help the most privileged succeed. AMERICA.

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No Progress on Poor Kids at Top Colleges

Despite effort, or the appearance of it, there has been no change in terms of getting high-achievers from low-income families to elite schools.

In 2006, at the 82 schools rated “most competitive” by Barron’s Profiles of American Colleges, 14 percent of American undergraduates came from the poorer half of the nation’s families, according to researchers at the University of Michigan and Georgetown University who analyzed data from federal surveys. That was unchanged from 1982. And at a narrower, more elite group of 28 private colleges and universities, including all eight Ivy League members, researchers at Vassar and Williams Colleges found that from 2001 to 2009, a period of major increases in financial aid at those schools, enrollment of students from the bottom 40 percent of family incomes increased from just 10 percent to 11 percent.

What does make a difference? Investments of money, which most schools either can’t or won’t prioritize, and investments of time, like sending admissions officers to schools that are off the beaten track. Also, perhaps most importantly, helping students understand that the sticker price at high-end colleges is not what most middle- and working-class families pay:

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The “Give Everyone a Goalie” Kind of Sex Ed

Sex ed is a hot button issue in America because certain folks believe it’s not a good idea for public schools to acknowledge that unmarried humans also have genitals, so we have an alarmingly high teen birth rate compared to other developed nations. That costs everyone money. What if instead of arguing about whether it’s acceptable to have high schoolers roll condoms onto bananas, we gave every lady a goalie instead, i.e., went straight to funding long-term, reversible birth control?

Between 2007 and 2012, Colorado saw the highest percentage drop in birth rates among teens 15 to 19 in the country, according to a report released today by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics. During that time, its teen birth rates dropped 39 percent compared to 29 percent nationwide. Abortion rates in the state among teens fell 35 percent between 2009 and 2012 and are falling nationally, as well.

The CDC’s report comes on the heels of Colorado’s own study, which reported a 40 percent decline in births among teens 15 to 19 from 2009 to 2013. The stunning decline in teen birth rates is significant not just for its size, but for its explanation. State public health officials are crediting a sustained, focused effort to offer low-income women free or low-cost long-acting reversible contraception, that is, intrauterine devices or implants. The Colorado Family Planning Initiative, supported by a $23 million anonymous donation, provided more than 30,000 IUDs or implants to women served by the state’s 68 family-planning clinics. The state’s analysis suggests the initiative was responsible for three-quarters of the decline in the state’s teen birth rates. … The state also saw a 50 percent drop in repeat pregnancies among teens. With a second child, the already-high odds are ratcheted up that a low-income mother will not finish high school, remain trapped at the low-paying end of the economic ladder and reliant upon public assistance. (You, taxpayer, may read this as ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching.)

Women who elected to go with condoms, the pill, or the patch instead were twenty times more likely to get pregnancy accidentally than those who got the implant/insertion. Shifting more of them to the long-term methods saved taxpayers $12 billion just in 2010. TWELVE BILLION!@!#!! Several other states are following suit, expanding Medicaid to cover the costs of long-term devices for postpartum women.

God, I hope this is something we can all get behind.

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Why SF is So Crazy Expensive & DC/NY Are Better

As we’ve established and you already knew deep in your bones, the same house will be more expensive in Greenwich, CT, than in Fargo, ND. What you may not have known, though, is that the difference in price is not merely reflective of the difference of costs, specifically land and material costs in CT vs ND. There’s an X factor too, or, as the experts call it, a “shadow price,” that makes San Francisco so absurdly unaffordable it might as well be Mars.

The price of a house or apartment, the authors argued, is more than just the value of the land plus the value of the building. There’s a third, shadow price, which represents how difficult it is to get something built given local regulations. In highly restrictive places like San Francisco, regulations impede the supply of new buildings, and so raise the price of housing.

So, like, for example, materials and land cost 2x the national average in SF, and yet a house costs 3.6x the national average. The difference can be attributed to regulations. You know, bureaucracy, red tape, all that nonsense. The Economist flatly states, “the [Bay Area] is one of the most difficult places to build in the country. Prices are therefore soaring and neighbourhoods are changing, touching off some occasionally nasty social conflicts.”

DC apartments, though nutsy, remain more reasonable than SF’s, in part because, after our nation’s capital went through crisis after crisis between 1969 and 2001, it decided to get back on its feet by investing in tons of new housing — for DINKs. If you build it, DC figured, they will come, “they” being single, sexy, spendy types, which represent more short-term gain for an urban area. And lo, the city was right

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A Midwestern Room of One’s Own

Scrolling through ad after ad for roommates with the single description, “we are young professionals.” WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? Are you vegetarians? Do you have cats? A chore-wheel? Is there a compost??

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When Money Doesn’t Matter: Up Close & Personal With The Son of a Chinese Billionaire

Kai (not his real name) didn’t think much of the United States but he lived here because it gave him freedom from his parents who otherwise might object to his constant whoremongering and general slothfulness. His father was (is) a government official who couldn’t fully flaunt his fortune since it would make his corruption a bit too obvious, and I suppose that cramped standard of living—spending a million dollars on a single piece of furniture instead of a private jet—was too limiting for Kai.

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A Modest Proposal to Reduce the Likelihood of Unjustified Shootings by Police

At this point, it is becoming evident that there is something about the way police officers are trained in this country, or about the culture that seems to pervade police departments, that needs to change. We can speculate about why this is so (or argue whether it is so). Greg Howard at Deadspin has smart things to say about the militarization of police forces (when you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail). I have a lot of ideas about the general stratification of society along race and class lines, and how that plays out in policymaking, law enforcement, and perceptions of poor, minority neighborhoods. But whatever the causes, it is safe to say that black men dying unnecessarily at the hands of police is a problem, and one society cannot quickly fix. So perhaps we should consider some sort of temporary solution.

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The Perils of NOT Working 9-5

Jodi Kantor at the Times has a poignant story about a woman whose unpredictable work hours affect her family, her relationships, her health, even her housing situation. The employee in question, single mother Janette Navarro, is striving and sacrificing, making the kind of choices we want to see in, and even demand of, our Good Poor; but her irregular schedule at Starbucks, set by machine, leaves her scrambling. She has to rely on the good will and flexibility on family members and a new boyfriend — and their patience has limits.

Newly off public assistance, she was just a few credits shy of an associate degree in business and talked of getting a master’s degree as some of her co-workers were. Her take-home pay rarely topped $400 to $500 every two weeks; since starting in November, she had set aside $900 toward a car — her next step toward stability and independence for herself and her 4-year-old son, Gavin.

But Ms. Navarro’s fluctuating hours, combined with her limited resources, had also turned their lives into a chronic crisis over the clock. She rarely learned her schedule more than three days before the start of a workweek, plunging her into urgent logistical puzzles over who would watch the boy. Months after starting the job she moved out of her aunt’s home, in part because of mounting friction over the erratic schedule, which the aunt felt was also holding her family captive. Ms. Navarro’s degree was on indefinite pause because her shifting hours left her unable to commit to classes. She needed to work all she could, sometimes counting on dimes from the tip jar to make the bus fare home. If she dared ask for more stable hours, she feared, she would get fewer work hours over all.

This profile is a heartbreaking reminder that systems to increase efficiency and profits often come at the expense of real people who, by definition, have messy, complicated lives. One tech guru gushes that Starbucks’s computerized scheduling works “like magic” to help the company cut costs. It’s not magic, dude. There are casualties right in front of us.

ETA: A penitent Starbucks will change its ways

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