So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

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How responsible is a person for their own wealth or poverty?

Sole personal responsibility: Inequalities exist, but so do opportunities. You are what you make of yourself.
25
15%
Primary personal responsibility: Opportunities exist, but existing poverty/social discrimination/etc create barriers some people may not be able to overcome.
86
53%
Middle Ground (please explain).
20
12%
Little personal responsibility: While it is possible to achieve personal success, the prime determining factors are environmental, not personal.
27
17%
No personal responsibility: It is virtually impossible to achieve any degree of success except through blind luck or already being part of the "rich-man-cabal".
2
1%
Other (please explain).
3
2%
 
Total votes: 163

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So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Gunfingers » Thu Jan 31, 2008 4:57 pm UTC

malice wrote:Clearly you're not somebody who needs help from the government. Sounds like you got lucky.

solt wrote:It's not even a question of luck. If you work hard, you will do well in life

fjafjan wrote:And got lucky, it's not as simple as "work hard + smarts + america = massive profit"

bitwiseshiftleft wrote:The poor and uneducated have little bargaining power, and cannot achieve wealth or education without a great deal of luck, a miracle, or help from large, powerful charities.

Quotes pulled from a brief forum search for such phrases as "luck", "wealth", and "success".

Some of us are very opinionated on how responsible a person is for their own fortune. So let's go with the closest thing i'm going to get to an actual social experiment and actually poll everyone on how they feel about it. Does capitalism work? Is "rags to riches" just a faerytale? Have we created a new aristocracy?

As far as the poll goes, i'm concerned with your perceptions specifically about the US. If you're from one of the less awesome parts of the world, feel free to comment on conditions there, but please answer the poll based on your perceptions of the economic status of the US.

For me, my answer is sole personal responsibility. It extends from my philosophy that i'm responsible for everything that happens to me, so naturally i apply it to economics. It isn't always that simple, but i believe it holds true as a general rule.

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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby superglucose » Thu Jan 31, 2008 5:02 pm UTC

For the most part, I think everyone has the ability to do well in life. There ARE some circumstances that are beyond an individual's control, such as someone who gets his legs broken every time he tries to go to school.

Honestly, while I'm not sure people can overcome certain things, it seems like the most successful people are the people who were told "you need to be [x] to succeed" and said "fuck that, I'm succeeding anyways!"

Makes me think there's a little bit more than coincidence there.
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Durandal » Thu Jan 31, 2008 5:07 pm UTC

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Last edited by Durandal on Wed Jul 08, 2009 4:54 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby superglucose » Thu Jan 31, 2008 5:13 pm UTC

Durandal wrote:How about people whose parents can't afford for them to go to university/college?


Re-read my post, I already said that it is beyond some people's means to leave their situation. And secondly, my parents can afford to send me to a university or college, but they don't. I pay for it myself. There *are* options out there, it's really just a matter of finding them.
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Durandal » Thu Jan 31, 2008 5:19 pm UTC

.
Last edited by Durandal on Wed Jul 08, 2009 4:53 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby superglucose » Thu Jan 31, 2008 5:24 pm UTC

Durandal wrote:I wasn't specifically commenting on your post.

In any case, how are they going to get the money if all the money that they earn goes towards supporting their family?


Ah, see, now they have a choice: fund their family or fund their education. But they still have the choice, even though they should fund their family.
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Indon » Thu Jan 31, 2008 5:35 pm UTC

I picked "middle ground", so I'mma explain now.

I'm a functionalist, so I care absolutely nothing about the ideals of fairness of stick-toitiveness... except in the sense that they apply to society as a whole, and helps society to thrive (or not).

I see a couple particularly major psychological facets to productivity, that when more people think is true, people become more productive (which is very good for the economy, and thus me). The ones I see to be particularly important:

-The principle that one is rewarded for one's work.
-The principle that others are not disproportionately awarded for the same amount of work compared to you.
-The principle that one can secure the best possible future for one's children.

And it may not look like it at first, but these things are at odds with each other.

I will use the easy example of hereditary wealth. The ability to give great amounts of wealth to one's child (that you presumably earned, fair and square) is in accordance to a person's desire to secure the best possible future for that child. However, others percieve your child becoming wealthy, and who is now able to profit not by working but simply by investing existing wealth, which hinders their perception that others are proportionately awarded for the same amount of work compared to them.

Obviously, people want to get something for working. But people hate it when others get things they have not earned. Yet, people want to give as much as they can to their children.

So, say we abolish inheritance. Good? No! Now people aren't motivated to work because they can no longer establish a legacy. So we put it back. Still bad! Now people aren't motivated to work because they percieve some people getting a free ride. So we establish welfare to even things out a bit. That fails too! Now people aren't being rewarded for working in the first place!

I think all of those things are vitally important to our economy and our culture, and thus that balancing them is vitally important to our economy and our culture. I also think that balancing them is very difficult.

So, were there an "It's complicated" option on that poll, I'd have picked it.

Edit: Superglucose - in the US and probably other nations, it's criminally negligent to leave a dependent to starve. They don't have a choice (unless you count "don't get education and don't go to prison" or "Don't get education and go to prison" as having a choice). FYI.
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby mrclark » Thu Jan 31, 2008 5:35 pm UTC

The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to to spend less money. Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles. But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that'd still be keeping his feet dry in ten years' time, while a poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet. This was the Captain Samuel Vimes 'Boots' theory of socio-economic unfairness.
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby superglucose » Thu Jan 31, 2008 6:03 pm UTC

Indon wrote:Edit: Superglucose - in the US and probably other nations, it's criminally negligent to leave a dependent to starve. They don't have a choice (unless you count "don't get education and don't go to prison" or "Don't get education and go to prison" as having a choice). FYI.

Not in the situation I described. FYI. Here's why:

A child is not considered a dependant of the child's sibling, unless it is seen by the law. I could see a child starving on the streets and walk on by and not be held responsible. Now it would be negligent to let my own child starve, but not someone else's. I wasn't speaking about a parent, I was speaking as though there were two children in the household: one 18 the other 2. There is also a mother/father. The mother/father cannot afford to send the 18 year old to college, so the 18 year old works to earn money for college. Then the mother/father loses his/her job, and can no longer afford to feed the 2 year old.

The 18 year old is under no legal obligation to assist either the 2 year old or the mother/father, though they are (in my opinion) under considerable moral and social obligation to.
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Dream » Thu Jan 31, 2008 7:39 pm UTC

I'm also a Vimes fan on this one. However, a person can measure their own success however they want. Slave all day for thirty years and still live in a hovel? You might still be a success if that slaving allowed your kids to go to college and get good jobs. Created good family = success, for me.

Also, cool new avatar, MJ.
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby TheStranger » Thu Jan 31, 2008 11:42 pm UTC

Durandal wrote:How about people whose parents can't afford for them to go to university/college?


There are many ways to pay for college aside from having your parents foot the bill. The most obvious of which is military service (one of the coasties I work with is finishing his Criminal Justice degree). Second is the usual round of scholarships and student loans. And there is always paying for it yourself (taking evening classes so that you can work full time, my brother is taking that path w/ respect to his Masters).
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Mighty Jalapeno » Thu Jan 31, 2008 11:51 pm UTC

I can't strictly afford to send my kids to college, but I'm putting away $35 per kid per month in an RESP, and they're going to have well in excess of 15 grand, each, when they go. Poor parents with good planning can send their kids to college just fine.

NOTE: College costs may vary in other countries.

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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby superglucose » Fri Feb 01, 2008 12:54 am UTC

Mighty Jalapeno wrote:I can't strictly afford to send my kids to college, but I'm putting away $35 per kid per month in an RESP, and they're going to have well in excess of 15 grand, each, when they go. Poor parents with good planning can send their kids to college just fine.

NOTE: College costs may vary in other countries.


And within a country. MJ, I have a feeling your children would have free admittance to Harvard and Yale (who recently opened up their endowments to provide free tuition for everyone coming from a family with a total income of... $150,000 a year or $200,000 year, I can never remember which is the actual figure and which is the one a columnist I read wanted it put at... I think 150k is the right figure).

Of course, then they have to get IN to harvard, and if it's a poor neighberhood, chances are you have a poor school, which means substandard education... doesn't it suck when things snowball? This is exactly why I love CA: guarenteed admission to a UC if you're in the top 10% of your class at any CA high school.
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Mighty Jalapeno » Fri Feb 01, 2008 12:58 am UTC

CA = California?

I don't really understand your post. My town is slightly crappy, but we have a full-fledged University here, and if my kids get good grades, they can go there, no problem, and afford two years on the strength of the RESPs. If they want to go to Harvard or Yale, they are more than welcome to apply, I guess.

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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby superglucose » Fri Feb 01, 2008 1:08 am UTC

Mighty Jalapeno wrote:CA = California?

I don't really understand your post. My town is slightly crappy, but we have a full-fledged University here, and if my kids get good grades, they can go there, no problem, and afford two years on the strength of the RESPs. If they want to go to Harvard or Yale, they are more than welcome to apply, I guess.


Oh sorry. CA is California, and the UC system and CSU system have heavily favored admissions towards people who come from poorer sections of the state.
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Nath » Fri Feb 01, 2008 1:10 am UTC

Gunfingers wrote:As far as the poll goes, i'm concerned with your perceptions specifically about the US. If you're from one of the less awesome parts of the world, feel free to comment on conditions there, but please answer the poll based on your perceptions of the economic status of the US.

What if I'm from one of the more awesome parts of the world?

Anyway, I was torn between 'primary personal responsibility' and 'middle ground'. I think it's very hard for someone who's desperately poor (malnutrition poor, not can't-afford-that-second-TV poor) to work their way up to the top of society in one lifetime. Over the course of a couple of generations, I think a sufficiently committed family can work its way up.

An individual is less mobile. You can go from desperately poor to somewhat-badly-off, or somewhat-badly-off to arbitrarily rich, but any more than that requires an awful lot of luck.

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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Mighty Jalapeno » Fri Feb 01, 2008 1:15 am UTC

Cool. Here, in Canada, it's pretty much dependent on grades. Some courses fill up, but if you have the grades and the money (and there's lots of ways to get the money, we've had tuitions frozen for 18 years, I think) you're in. I make a small fraction of $150,000 per year (in fact, we make below-average money for a family of five), but we can still easily afford to send them to college with careful planning.

I think there's too much emphasis on "rich" and "poor"... poor, in most of the discussions here, seem to just be middle-class people. I'll be the first to admit that the entire focus of the current Western economy seems to be to get people to balance on that edge of income so that NOT working becomes a fruitless impossibility, except to those people with enough money to be idle for the rest of their lives (the "rich"). I've accepted that even with the raise I'll be getting, I'll still be "middle class" for, probably, the rest of my life, and my kids will, too.

However, if you're born dead-ass-broke, it is slightly harder, but not impossible. A good friend of mine spent his childhood in low-income housing, and with both parents working, still required federal assistance to get enough money for food. He is now a plumber and a property developer, and owns his own janitorial business, and as much as he doesn't like to admit it, that was ENTIRELY due to the fact that he is the hardest worker I know. He's a goof, he plays too much WoW, he does drugs, but he is STILL a hard worker, and has done great things for himself. Now, it's not always hard work... it helped he was naturally smart, and got lots of good jobs because he's big and good-looking and European, but even with all that, he would be a deadbeat now if he hadn't worked his ass off. Work and dedication is the swing-vote.

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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Izawwlgood » Fri Feb 01, 2008 1:17 am UTC

No matter which way you argue this, people are born into differing opportunity. You can argue that your parents require you to procure your own means of collegiate scholarship and you did, but the fact remains that they were able to provide a stable home for you in which they could foster a strong basis for education. That is more then many people have. As such, the decisions that are made in the course of a life are YOURS to make, you can CHOOSE to study and succeed in school and apply for scholarships and go places, or you can CHOOSE to lead a life of crime and perpetuate that for your children.

Children raised in higher income homes have greater access to education and greater access to opportunity. This is not a bad thing, as more opportunities create more wealth, raises the standard, creates more opportunities... Privilege is only a bad thing if it is wasted. People make their own decisions but there are circumstances requiring equalization of opportunity. NOT affirmative action. Something better.

I can understand a wealth gap, I hope the middle class burgeons, that the divide between the 'classes' shrinks, and that poverty vanishes. People will always be comparatively poor/rich to one another. I do not understand how homelessness exists aside from mental illness and choice.
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby 4=5 » Fri Feb 01, 2008 1:29 am UTC

voted just below moderate

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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Hexadecimator » Fri Feb 01, 2008 4:13 am UTC

Nath wrote:
Gunfingers wrote:As far as the poll goes, i'm concerned with your perceptions specifically about the US. If you're from one of the less awesome parts of the world, feel free to comment on conditions there, but please answer the poll based on your perceptions of the economic status of the US.

What if I'm from one of the more awesome parts of the world?

Anyway, I was torn between 'primary personal responsibility' and 'middle ground'. I think it's very hard for someone who's desperately poor (malnutrition poor, not can't-afford-that-second-TV poor) to work their way up to the top of society in one lifetime. Over the course of a couple of generations, I think a sufficiently committed family can work its way up.

An individual is less mobile. You can go from desperately poor to somewhat-badly-off, or somewhat-badly-off to arbitrarily rich, but any more than that requires an awful lot of luck.
I think you've got that exactly right. Very rarely does one see children on the streets making it big later in life. With hard work and a bit of luck they can get a college degree a decent job, and their children will have a good home and can now climb much higher up the ladder. However, large jumps upwards at any point on the ladder tend to require an insane amount of luck (strike oil, invent the opti-grab, happen to have an amazing singing voice).

One thing no one has mentioned so far though, is the amazaing ease of sliding down the ladder. With hard work you can be much better off than your parents, but with little or no work, a stroke of bad luck, or simple stupidity (not that america will believe that any person is ever innately smarter than another, but that's a discussion for another thread) you can end up poor rather easily.

This is what puts me at primary personal responsibility. Hard work will usually, but not always, move you upwards, but doing nothing will inevitably dump you to the bottom (yes, even the trust fund babies, though it might take a generation or two).
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Indon » Fri Feb 01, 2008 2:14 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:No matter which way you argue this, people are born into differing opportunity.

Well, I don't think that's the subject of contention.

The subject of contention is, "What should be done about people being born into differing opportunity?" and related topics.

Izawwlgood wrote:I can understand a wealth gap, I hope the middle class burgeons, that the divide between the 'classes' shrinks, and that poverty vanishes. People will always be comparatively poor/rich to one another. I do not understand how homelessness exists aside from mental illness and choice.


I don't think that the rich-poor gap can shrink without significant government intervention. Market forces, due to a variety of reasons, will tend to increase it.

And I know how homelessness can exist outside of mental illness and choice - spousal troubles being one possibility. This form of homelessness is generally only temporary, but I suspect that at least some of the homelessness in America, and probably most other nations, falls into this category.
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby ZeroSum » Fri Feb 01, 2008 2:32 pm UTC

I am astonished that 1 out of 5 responders here really believe that people are less responsible for their resulting world than the environment they were brought into.

Really, if that were the case wouldn't it be almost unheard of for siblings to grow up and live lives with vastly different "success"?

My brother and I are of approximately the same intelligence and potential and grew up in the same household under nearly identical circumstances and opportunities yet he didn't get his GED until he was 20 and now is a trade laborer working second shift to support his two kids that he had at too young an age whereas I graduated college and am using that degree at a desk every day.

The difference in outcome between the two of us was obviously choice rather than environmentally based.

I know it's just anecdotal evidence, but is my circumstance so rare?

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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Nath » Fri Feb 01, 2008 3:57 pm UTC

ZeroSum wrote:My brother and I are of approximately the same intelligence and potential and grew up in the same household under nearly identical circumstances and opportunities yet he didn't get his GED until he was 20 and now is a trade laborer working second shift to support his two kids that he had at too young an age whereas I graduated college and am using that degree at a desk every day.

In the grand scheme of things, you and your brother aren't in such vastly different circumstances. Neither of you is starving. Neither of you owns a country.

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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby ZeroSum » Fri Feb 01, 2008 3:59 pm UTC

One of us is barely able to feed himself and his kids while working his ass off and the other bought the first a car. There's a big difference there.

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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Vaniver » Fri Feb 01, 2008 4:00 pm UTC

I wanted to say sole personal responsibility, but obviously it's not 100%.

Nath wrote:In the grand scheme of things, you and your brother aren't in such vastly different circumstances. Neither of you is starving. Neither of you owns a country.
In the long run, we're all dead. If you trivialize the difference between those two, there's not really all that much left to talk about. Income and success are not an all-or-nothing proposition; they have a fairly smooth distribution.
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Indon » Fri Feb 01, 2008 4:03 pm UTC

ZeroSum: Well, we're talking more about the extremes in environment. For instance, you were both born in a postindustrial country, in a family presumably above the poverty line, and so on. And, unsurprisingly, while you've both deviated from each other, you're both still middle-class (unless your brother's living at or near poverty, in which case he's not just low-middle class), which is roughly where you were born into considering the entire continuum.

Meanwhile, there are countries in which people are born in poor conditions, don't even have the chance at recieving a GED, and so on, and on the other hand there are people born into wealth such that by doing absolutely nothing, they will make more money in their life than you will in yours. The circumstances around birth dictate, without ambiguity, these circumstances, and I imagine that's what's being kept in mind when many people vote here.
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Vaniver » Fri Feb 01, 2008 4:06 pm UTC

Indon wrote:ZeroSum: Well, we're talking more about the extremes in environment. For instance, you were both born in a postindustrial country, in a family presumably above the poverty line, and so on. And, unsurprisingly, while you've both deviated from each other, you're both still middle-class (unless your brother's living at or near poverty, in which case he's not just low-middle class), which is roughly where you were born into considering the entire continuum.

Meanwhile, there are countries in which people are born in poor conditions, don't even have the chance at recieving a GED, and so on, and on the other hand there are people born into wealth such that by doing absolutely nothing, they will make more money in their life than you will in yours. The circumstances around birth dictate, without ambiguity, these circumstances, and I imagine that's what's being kept in mind when many people vote here.
I thought the OP was unambiguously clear that this we were discussing America instead of underdeveloped economies.

Considering the income continuum as 5% rich, 75% middle class, and 20% poor is not a useful way to talk about income. There is a sizable difference between earning 40k a year and 80k a year.
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Indon » Fri Feb 01, 2008 4:10 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:I thought the OP was unambiguously clear that this we were discussing America instead of underdeveloped economies.

True, but there are still SOL individuals born in America. Just not very many.

Vaniver wrote:Considering the income continuum as 5% rich, 75% middle class, and 20% poor is not a useful way to talk about income. There is a sizable difference between earning 40k a year and 80k a year.


Because of significant regional deviations in the cost of living, both of your examples can mean the same quality of lifestyle in different parts of the country. How sizable is it when one factor among many can basically erase it?
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby ZeroSum » Fri Feb 01, 2008 4:10 pm UTC

Okay, Indon, let's look at the intent of the original poll:

Gunfingers wrote:As far as the poll goes, I'm concerned with your perceptions specifically about the US. If you're from one of the less awesome parts of the world, feel free to comment on conditions there, but please answer the poll based on your perceptions of the economic status of the US.


Oh, look, we're not talking third-world countries here, we're talking capitalism and potential in the United States.

For reference, my brother and I were brought up in lower class socio-economically. My brother is definitely still in lower class socio-economically. I make more than my brother and his wife combined and I make more than my mother ever has. I have more in long-term savings than my mother has ever held in debt. I didn't do anything extraordinary: I went to a middling-level state school for college and got a job afterwards.

Throughout the four years I was in college my mother had $0 AGI. I worked, took on a small amount of debt and received a good amount of financial aid to get through school. Having been in the top third of my class if I'd actually applied for college for regular admissions I would've gotten a full tuition scholarship.

Look at that last paragraph again: My mother had no income and I left school with $2k in debt. Without taking a scholarship that 1/3 of the high school graduates in my state qualify for.

I can't see how anything short of terrible luck or terrible choices could fuck that up.

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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Vaniver » Fri Feb 01, 2008 4:15 pm UTC

Indon wrote:Because of significant regional deviations in the cost of living, both of your examples can mean the same quality of lifestyle in different parts of the country. How sizable is it when one factor among many can basically erase it?
Are the income distributions of most regions significantly different from the income distribution of the country as the whole, with some scale factor?
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Indon » Fri Feb 01, 2008 4:24 pm UTC

ZeroSum wrote:For reference, my brother and I were brought up in lower class socio-economically. My brother is definitely still in lower class socio-economically. I make more than my brother and his wife combined and I make more than my mother ever has. I have more in long-term savings than my mother has ever held in debt. I didn't do anything extraordinary: I went to a middling-level state school for college and got a job afterwards.

I suspect your parents would have been considered middle-class. The middle class is generally considered pretty big - I can only imagine because it's in there that you have most of your social mobility options. You went to public school and didn't have to drop out - your neighborhood was probably not inundated in drug and violent crime, and so on.

Throughout my being raised and even now, my parents have had great financial difficulty. They're renters and essentially have no chance of owning a home (probably haven't for a couple decades). They're very much inundated in debt and have very limited credit options, and so on... but they're middle-class, albeit somewhat on the lower end.

ZeroSum wrote:Throughout the four years I was in college my mother had $0 AGI. I worked, took on a small amount of debt and received a good amount of financial aid to get through school. Having been in the top third of my class if I'd actually applied for college for regular admissions I would've gotten a full tuition scholarship.

Look at that last paragraph again: My mother had no income and I left school with $2k in debt. Without taking a scholarship that 1/3 of the high school graduates in my state qualify for.

I can't see how anything short of terrible luck or terrible choices could fuck that up.


So you made it through school while solely financially supporting your mother? What job did you get, I know some people who might like some tips. I assume you took the standard govt. financial aid route.

Edit:
Vaniver wrote:Are the income distributions of most region significantly different from the income distribution of the country as the whole, with some scale factor?


That's a good question. The possibility of a correlation between cost of living and income distribution seems interesting. Any ideas as to where to find good regional demographics for that sort of thing?
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Vaniver » Fri Feb 01, 2008 4:31 pm UTC

Indon wrote:That's a good question. The possibility of a correlation between cost of living and income distribution seems interesting. Any ideas as to where to find good regional demographics for that sort of thing?
I would start with looking at census data, and then if that fails start the process to wring data out of the IRS.
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby ZeroSum » Fri Feb 01, 2008 4:45 pm UTC

Indon wrote:I suspect your parents would have been considered middle-class. The middle class is generally considered pretty big - I can only imagine because it's in there that you have most of your social mobility options. You went to public school and didn't have to drop out - your neighborhood was probably not inundated in drug and violent crime, and so on.
1. Please note my lack of a reference to a "dad" in all of this. That's important seeing as when he left he also took all the money the two of them had together and promptly stuffed it up his nose.
2. And actually, Dominos wouldn't deliver because their delivery guys got jacked too much and one of the houses down the street got taken down for being a crack house, so yeah, I know what crime and violence in the neighborhood means.

So you made it through school while solely financially supporting your mother? What job did you get, I know some people who might like some tips. I assume you took the standard govt. financial aid route.
Who said I supported her? She supporter herself through various government aid and programs, some TDI and some extended family help. It was fun explaining to the financial aid people how my mother was alive with no taxable income though. They only asked that first year. To support myself I bummed on couches, did work-study and worked retail. Pell Grant took care of most of my tuition.
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby oxoiron » Fri Feb 01, 2008 4:56 pm UTC

From a statistical standpoint, environment is the prime determinant of success. The vast majority of people born into poverty, die impoverished and the vast majority of people born into wealth, die wealthy. Assuming there are no innate genetic differences between those two sets of people, we can only conclude that environment is disproportionately affecting them.

A poor person may work hard and become successful or even fabulously wealthy, but for every one that does that, there are thousands left behind. A wealthy person may squander everything handed to them and end up with nothing, but for every one that does that, there are thousands who retain their wealth.

You can argue that motivation was the prime factor in the success of the person born poor and stupidity was the prime factor in the failure of the person born wealthy and I would say you are correct. However, that does not change the fact that the overwhelming numbers of people who never change their socio-economic postition still exist. Don't focus on the exceptional people and say, "See! Hard work or stupidity will move one up or down the social ladder. Personal responsibility is the sole or primary determinant affecting one's success in life." Instead, realize that for every person who does move up or down significantly, there are thousands who do not. Since rich people almost always end up rich and poor people almost always end up poor, by arguing that personal responsibility is the prime or sole factor, you are implying that rich people are usually born with natural ability and drive that allows them to succeed at a much higher rate than poor people, who are apparently rarely born with ability and drive.

I'm not saying that ability and drive don't affect your chances of success, but being born into a given socio-economic class has a disproportionate effect on whether you get a chance to use those abilities and harness that drive.
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Vaniver » Fri Feb 01, 2008 5:03 pm UTC

From a statistical standpoint, environment is the prime determinant of success. The vast majority of people born into poverty, die impoverished and the vast majority of people born into wealth, die wealthy. Assuming there are no innate genetic differences between those two sets of people, we can only conclude that environment is disproportionately affecting them.
I'm going to contest your claim of "vast majority." Income is only moderated correlated between generations (the last r I saw was .5, but don't trust my memory on that).

Your one out of a thousand ratio is also highly suspect. Have you actually looked at these statistics?
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby oxoiron » Fri Feb 01, 2008 5:10 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:
From a statistical standpoint, environment is the prime determinant of success. The vast majority of people born into poverty, die impoverished and the vast majority of people born into wealth, die wealthy. Assuming there are no innate genetic differences between those two sets of people, we can only conclude that environment is disproportionately affecting them.
I'm going to contest your claim of "vast majority." Income is only moderated correlated between generations (the last r I saw was .5, but don't trust my memory on that).

Your one out of a thousand ratio is also highly suspect. Have you actually looked at these statistics?

When I have time, I'll see if I can find something online to confirm it; my source is a paper I read a couple years ago and I have no idea where it is.
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Indon » Fri Feb 01, 2008 5:14 pm UTC

ZeroSum wrote:1. Please note my lack of a reference to a "dad" in all of this. That's important seeing as when he left he also took all the money the two of them had together and promptly stuffed it up his nose.
2. And actually, Dominos wouldn't deliver because their delivery guys got jacked too much and one of the houses down the street got taken down for being a crack house, so yeah, I know what crime and violence in the neighborhood means.

Consider the point conceded. Congratulations.

ZeroSum wrote:Who said I supported her? To support myself I bummed on couches, did work-study and worked retail. Pell Grant and took care of most of my tuition.


Edit: So the government sustained your mother so that the burden on her family would be lessened. That's a good example of how the government works to increase financial mobility.
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Gunfingers » Fri Feb 01, 2008 5:26 pm UTC

From a statistical standpoint, environment is the prime determinant of success.


What statistics? The only ones i'm aware of are a bit* old, but they kind of say the opposite.

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http://www.house.gov/jec/middle/mobility/mobility.htm


*By "a bit" i mean "about 20 years" so, y'know, grain of salt.

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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby chaosspawn » Fri Feb 01, 2008 6:11 pm UTC

I put down a middle option. For most people in the middle class level and above, making money is more defendant on your own abilities than environmental factors (barring obvious exceptions such as severe handicaps). However, the poorest people are more influenced by their environment.

I believe in the adage "it takes money to make money", so the more you start with the easier it is to make money. It is the difference between having investments make you money, versus having credit card debt that actively loses you money. So while poorer people can get ahead it will take more effort and drive to do so. Whereas someone with money needs to only work marginally to increase their lot by a similar value. That I suppose is more like an economic theory though. I also see factors like discrimination (as much as I would love for us as a society to not have it) play a part in it.

I do see the argument for most to all environment accounting for it. If you consider the fact that you are who you've become due to your upbringing, then even a good deal of your personality was decided for you. True, you still are your own individual, but parents (or lack thereof) have major effects on how a child develops.
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Vaniver » Fri Feb 01, 2008 6:46 pm UTC

Gunfingers, I find it disturbing that your graph claims that more people rose than fell. The following table (from that income mobility report) also has the same problem:
Image
% of a quintile at the end: 35 77.4 111.8 134.9 140.7

My guess is they applied the 1979 quintile cutoffs in 1988 to determine what "quintile" everyone was in then. Is this deceptive?

Yes and no. There are two ways of looking at income- absolute and relative. Quintiles tend to just be a relative view (did I earn more than 80% of the population?). Average or median income tend to just be an absolute view (how much standard of living can the 'average' person buy?). Just looking at it one way misses the picture- I might slip from quintile 3 to quintile 2 and have the same standard of living (which didn't grow as fast as the average's). A combination like this (9 years later, how does everyone relate to their previous position?) seems like the best way to do it, but the way they present it (28% of the population is in the fifth quintile?) is disingenuous. In absolute terms, there was more rising than falling- but in relative terms (the ones they're using) for one person to rise another must fall.
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