Ways of Thinking…: Social Class Lesson 5: Prestige/Power and Location

Ways of Thinking...: Social Class Lesson 5: Prestige/Power and Location
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Prestige and Power

People view different occupations with different levels of prestige. This prestige can translate to real power such as being appointed to boards or committees. It can also simply give you credibility or respect in social situations.
  • Traditional authority – power because of social or cultural tradition like royalty or religious leaders
  • Rational-Legal authority – power from law and legitimacy of the state such as judges and police,
  • Charismatic authority – power that comes from personal qualities that create influence over people such as Kim Kardashian or Michael Strehan
One example of power is how the world’s most powerful leaders gather in secret meetings annually to discuss how they can shape policy, economics and laws among other things. One such meeting is the American Enterprise Institute is one example of an annual meeting which is a private, off-the-record meeting held every year. Another meeting is the Bilderberg meeting.

Some examples of power are the abilities to keep yourself out of jail, influence politicians and enact laws that you favor:

This 2019 ProPublica report found that the IRS is LESS likely to audit wealthier Americans because it is more costly and difficult.
And this article from the NY Times shows that an executive at United Airlines accused of corruption charges was forced to resign. Imagine if a teacher was accused of corruption and was forced to resign. That would be it – out of a job and no compensation. But,

Some more local examples of a contrast in power among wealthy and powerful compared to low income and powerless:

Compare this story to the cheating scandal in the video above.
Check this post for an explanation of drug busts at different schools including here.

3. Choose one of the examples above. Which did you choose and what is the power being exerted?


The next component of social class is location.

The Median Metro Area
Examining the largest 384 metro areas in the United States, our area, Chicago is the 3rd most populous at 9 million people. The median metro area is #192 – it is the 2nd largest city in Arkansas; Can you name it? Can you guess how many people are in the city? The total metropolitan area?

4. What is the size of the median metro area in the United States?

5. How does our metro area compare to the median?

Location and where College Grads Move

Try to make your own conclusions about the data:

6. Where do college grads tend to move?

7. How do you think where college grads move affects social class in the US?

Educational Attainment in America Map

Another source of evidence regarding social class, education and location is an interactive version of the map below. The map was created by a geographer using existing data are from the 2011-2015 American Community Survey Table B15003, distributed by NHGIS.
(Data preparation was completed in the R and Python programming languages, with heavy reliance on the arcpy site package via ArcGIS Pro and the sf R package. The map itself is hosted by Mapbox and designed with Mapbox GL JS and dimple.js. Major features of the map are described here.)

8. Where do you see segregation by educational attainment?

Home Price, Location and Social Class

The price of a home depends on a lot more than the physical structure of the home.

Location and home price:

Zillow has a real estate market overview. Here is a link for the overview for each suburb (2021 averages):

Click here to see some houses for sale in Lake County, IL in 2014. Which do you think are the most expensive? Which are the least? When you see the actual prices, why do you think that is?

Time had a map showing the most economically segregated cities in America.

This heat map from Trulia shows the median sales price for areas across Lake County.

9. How do you think your home’s value compares to the average home price? (Remember from the wealth section above, the average American owns a home.)

Location and health

And Clint Smith, a Washington DC teacher explains in his slam poem the ways that affects his students. As you watch, make a list of the ways that affects them:

Location is also related to mobility:

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