When Class is Invisible in Social Policy

Another piece of the puzzle of why Americans invest so much less in social services — including education — relative to other Western countries is analyzed in this NYT article. The author reviews a number of studies that correlated support for social programs with ethnic diversity and finds — rather consistently — that support for “redistribution” programs falls as communities become more ethnically and racially diverse.

In the U.S., it seems, white voters assume that such programs are for those “other people”. In more homogeneous countries like Sweden, voters support social programs because they assume that such programs will benefit families like their own.

In the end, though,

Ethnic diversity doesn’t inevitably reduce spending on public goods. Rather, spending tends to fall when elected officials choose to run and govern on platforms that heighten racial and ethnic divisions.

Missing from the article are the perspectives of poor and working-class whites and their complicated positions in such deliberations about social programs, social “welfare” and race.

Most poor children in this country are white. Are poor and working class white voters identifying with more privileged whites to deny services to those “others”? Or are the “white” voters discussed in this article less homogeneous than the author implies?

More importantly, how do we move deliberations about such things beyond campaign sound bites to more substantive analysis of how class matters in the U.S.? Assuming that many poor and working class people aren’t regular readers of the New York Times, where are other public forums in which these questions can even be raised?

How do we begin to imagine a school curriculum in which class interests are identified, debated, supported, and then articulated in the broader public arena?

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One thought on “When Class is Invisible in Social Policy

  1. steve September 26, 2010 / 3:40 am

    There is some irony in the fact that all of the race theories were constructed by Middle class academics, most of the leaders of far right parties in the UK are public school educated, and generally Middle class people do not live in multicultural areas.

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