Saturday, June 04, 2005

Sorting by Class

by Tom Bozzo

The penultimate installment of the New York Times series on social class issues — describing the life of an upper-income family from Hell, USA (*) — tells me something to which I might have been attuned were I in the sociology racket. Those price points you'll see in the advertising for new housing developments (as in "from the 200's," "starting in the upper $300's to $499,000," etc.) are not there solely to signal me that I don't want to live in that neighborhood because the $200,000 house has tacky vinyl siding and low-end kitchen appliances.

The true horror is that in part they're also signaling that if you can afford to be in the neighborhood of $400,000 houses, an additional amenity is that you don't have to live near people who can only afford the $200,000 house. That makes me feel a little bad about cracking wise about Middleton Hills, the Madison area's first 'new urbanism' development, where the lower-upper-middle to upper-upper-middle classes do indeed choose to live at least as close to each other as we do in our old urbanism neighborhood.

The series ends tomorrow with a profile of the "hyper-rich," as if we really need to learn about how hard it is to choose the right mega-yacht. Still, it was interesting to get the Lyric Opera of Chicago's 2005 survey (**) and see a suggestion as to the class distribution of the opera-subscribing audience. Most consumer surveys will try to separate basically middle-class income levels, and lump the working well-to-do with the truly rich in a top category. Not the Lyric! Their survey has only four categories to cover household incomes up to $99,999, has five categories covering a bit more than 2% of the general population (those making more than $200,000), and to make the top category a subscribing household needs an income exceeding $2 million.


(*) The Atlanta suburbs, but lest I seem like a Yankee snob (which I am, but that's beside the point), the story seemed to have sufficient generality to be able to be transported to any recent suburban development.

(**) Being administered, as fine print notes, by the University of Chicago's survey center, and providing an Insitutional Review Board contact number if I feel my rights as a respondent have been violated by being asked how frequently I'd like to have a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta in my subscription. The survey administrator may hear about some shortcomings in the questionnaire design.
Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?