How We Think About Class

While everyone agreed in principle that it is generally not desirable to judge people based on their appearance, we diverged on whether judging people based on apparent wealth is as bad as judging them based on, say, race.

Class on TV: Getting More Ham-fisted?

For the Baffler, Heather Havrilevsky looks at how class is handled, or mishandled, on TV today. She covers GIRLS, Downton Abbey, Revenge, and Gossip Girl, to name a few, and the verdict isn't great.

Who Had the Richest Parents? Comparing Current Income to How You Grew Up

Love your water cooler chat, Planet Money, and love that you followed through on it and tracked down then parsed a longitudinal government study following 12,000 people for 30 years. Enter many strangely fascinating graphs.

The Selfie as Class Signifier

Miss Sheryl doesn’t have a computer and definitely wouldn’t know what a selfie is. Her cell runs on minutes and doesn’t have a camera. Like many of us, she’s too poor to participate in pop culture. She’s on public assistance living in public housing and scrambles for odd jobs to survive.

Salon’s D. Watkins reports from East Baltimore, where “everything looks like ‘The Wire’ and nobody cares what a ‘selfie’ is.” Watkins points out that it requires a certain amount of money to participate in certain aspects of pop culture. [via]

Photo: Paul Sableman

Homeless Woman Arrested For Leaving Kids In Her Car During Job Interview

Well, this is very sad:
Shanesha Taylor, a woman from Scottsdale, Arizona, is homeless. So when she got asked to come in for a job interview last Thursday, she must have been excited by the prospect. But when you’re homeless, there isn’t always an easy way to take an hour off from watching your kids to be at an interview. That’s how Taylor, 35, wound up losing her children to Child Protective Service — and losing out on the potential job.

Searching for Something Better in West Baltimore

Monica Potts spent months following men in their 20s, 30s, and 40s from West Baltimore as they tried to make honest lives for themselves and find decent paying jobs.

On Food, Farmers’ Markets and the Farm Bill

On Fridays this summer in Chicago I went to the Department of Human Services offices on 63rd Street to invite people to visit the farmers' market. Unless I had more outreach to do in Woodlawn or South Shore, I didn't ride my bike. The first time I rode over, I was encouraged by the security guard to bring it in and since I hated the time it took to lock up my bike and ostentatious display of bike-riding, I just started walking over from my office a couple blocks away. Timing was everything for this outreach: If you went at 9 when the office opened nobody was there, and any later than 11 and the same was true. The benefit of going at 10 meant it wasn't too hot yet and I'd still manage to grab a donut and iced coffee at Robust Coffee Lounge on my way back.

The Erosion of the Middle Class Via the Business World

In the Times, Nelson Schwartz looks at the erosion of the middle class via indicators in the business world—stores like Loehmann's, J.C. Penney, and Sears and restaurants like Red Lobster and Olive Garden have declined in the past few years while businesses like Barneys which sell high-end goods, and bargain basement chains like Dollar Tree have seen gains on opposite ends:

The Working Class: Too Nice For Their Own Good?

David Graeber wrote a thing for the Guardian about how "caring too much" is the curse of the working class, who are generally nicer and more empathetic overall, mostly because they have to be.

Oh Great, Debtor’s Prison Is a Thing Again

Hannah Rappleye and Lisa Riordan Seville cover the disturbing and arguably unconstitutional practice of private probation for The Nation. And there are many more troubling anecdotes where that one came from (namely, a small town in Alabama called Harperville).

Sharing Stories About Going Hungry in America

Robin Dickinson, a family practice physician, suffered two strokes and found herself unable to work. Soon, she found it nearly impossible to feed her family, but then remembered that was a safety net available to help people in her position: SNAP benefits. What is it like to suddenly fall into poverty and need the assistance of food stamps?

A Modern-Day Debtor’s Prison in Pennsylvania

Emma Jacobs looks at a "modern-day debtor's prison" in Montgomery County, Pa. where a judge is sending people to jail for being unable to pay fines. Vic Walczak, legal director for the ACLU of Pennsylvania told Jacobs: "What is perfectly clear under both the U.S. Constitution and the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure is that you cannot send someone to jail if they cannot afford to pay the fine, because that's the equivalent of having a debtor's prison — of putting someone in jail simply because they're poor." Records show that each day in jail was worth about $40 towards their fines, but taxpayers are ultimately paying for it.