Posted on Leave a comment

The Labelling Theory of Crime

The labelling Theory of Crime is associated with Interactionism – the Key ideas are that crime is socially constructed, agents of social control label the powerless as deviant and criminal based on stereotypical assumptions and this creates effects such as the self-fulfilling prophecy, the criminal career and deviancy amplification.

Interactionists argue that people do not become criminals because of their social background, but rather argue that crime emerges because of labelling by authorities. They see crime as the product of micro-level interactions between certain individuals and the police, rather than the result of external social forces such as socialisation or blocked opportunity structures.

Four Key concepts associated with Interactionist theories of deviance

  1. Crime is Sociology Constructed – An act which harms an individual or society else only becomes criminal if those in power label that act as criminal.

  1. Not everyone who is deviant gets labelled as such – negative labels are generally (deviant/ criminal) are generally given to the powerless by the powerful.

  1. Labelling has real consequences – it can lead to deviancy amplification, the self-fulfilling prophecy and deviant careers.

  1. Labelling theory has a clear ‘value position’ – it should aim to promote policies that prevent labelling minor acts as deviant.

1- Crime is Socially Constructed

Rather than taking the definition of crime for granted, labelling theorists are interested in how certain acts come to be defined or labelled as criminal in the first place.

Interactionists argue that there is no such thing as an inherently deviant act – in other words there is nothing which is deviant in itself in all situations and at all times, certain acts only become deviant in certain situations when others label them as deviant. Deviance is not a result of an act or an individual being ‘uniquely different’, deviance is a product of society’s reaction to actions.

Howard Becker - labelling theorist

As Howard Becker* (1963) puts it – “Deviancy is not a quality of the act a person commits, but rather a consequences of the application by others of rules and sanctions to an ‘offender’. Deviant behaviour is behaviour that people so label.” (*The main theorist within labelling theory)

Howard Becker illustrates how crime is the product of social interactions by using the example of a fight between young people. In a low-income neighbourhood, a fight is more likely to be defined by the police as evidence of delinquency, but in a wealthy area as evidence of high spirits. The acts are the same, but the meanings given to them by the audience (in this case the public and the police) differ. Those who have the power to make the label stick thus create deviants or criminals.

Becker provides a more extreme example in his book The Outsiders (1963) – in this he draws on a simple illustration of an anthropological study by anthropologist Malinowski who describes how a youth killed himself because he hand been publicly accused of incest. When Malinowski had first inquired about the case, the islanders expressed their horror and disgust. But, on further investigation, it turned out that incest was not uncommon on the island, nor was it really frowned upon provided those involved were discrete. However, if an incestuous affair became too obvious and public, the islanders reacted with abuse and the offenders were ostracised and often driven to suicide.

To be clear – in the above example, everyone knows that incest goes on, but if people are too public about it (and possibly if they are just disliked for whatever reason) they get publicly shamed for being in an incestuous relationship.

You could apply the same thinking to criminal behaviour more generally in Britain – According to a recent 2015 survey of 2000 people, the average person in Britain breaks the law 17 ties per year, with 63% admitting speeding, 33% steeling and 25% taking illegal drugs – clearly the general public is tolerant of ‘ordinary’ deviance – but every now and then someone will get spotted doing ‘ordinary’ criminal activities and publicly shamed.

labelling theory and drugs

All of this has led labelling theorists to look at how and why rules and laws get made – especially the role of what Becker calls ‘moral entrepreneurs’, people who lead a moral crusade to change the law in the belief that it will benefit those to whom it is applied. However, according to Interactionists, when new laws are created, they simply create new groups of outsiders and lead to the expansion of social control agencies such as the police, and such campaigns may do little to change the underlying amount of ‘deviant activity’ taking place.

In summary – deviance is not a quality that lies in behaviour itself, but in the interaction between the person who commits an act and those who respond to it. From this point of view, deviance is produced by a process of interaction between the potential deviant and the wider public (both ordinary people and agencies of social control).

Application of the concept of ‘social constructionism’ to drug crime

Looking at how drug laws have changed over time, and how they vary from country to country to country is a very good way of looking at how the deviant act of drug-taking is socially constructed…

In the United Kingdom, a new law was recently passed which outlawed all legal highs, meaning that many ‘head-shops’ which sold them literally went from doing something legal to illegal over night (obviously they had plenty of notice!)

Meanwhile – in some states in America, such as Colorado, things seem to be moving in the other direction – it is now legal to grow, sell and smoke Weed – meaning that a whole new generation of weed entrepreneurs have suddenly gone from doing something illegal to something legal, and profitable too!

NB – There’s a lot more information about the social construction of drug use out there – think about the difference between coffee, nicotine, alcohol (all legal) and cannabis. 

Discussion Question

Do you agree with the idea that there is no such thing as an inherently deviance act? Work your way through the list of deviance acts below and try to think of contexts in which they would not be regarded as deviant.

– Violence

– Theft

– Fraud

– Drug taking

– Public nudity

– Paedophilia

– Vandalism

2 – Not Everyone Who is Deviant Gets Labelled

Those in Power are just as deviant/ criminal as actual ‘criminals’ but they are more able to negotiate themselves out of being labelled as criminals.

NB to my mind the classic song by NWA ‘Fuck Tha Police’ is basically highlighting the fact that it’s young black males in the US that typically get labelled as criminals (while young white kids generally don’t)

Back to Labelling theory proper – the key idea here is that not everyone who commits an offence is punished for it. Whether a person is arrested, charged and convicted depends on factors such as:

    1. Their interactions with agencies of social control such as the police and the courts
    1. Their appearance, background and personal biography
  1. The situation and circumstances of the offence.

This leads labelling theorists to look at how laws are applied and enforced. Their studies show that agencies of social control are more likely to label certain groups of people as deviant or criminal.

The main piece of sociological research relevant here is Aaron Cicourel’s ‘Power and The Negotiation of Justice’ (1968)

Aaron Cicourel – Power and the negotiation of justice

The process of defining a young person as a delinquent is complex, and it involves a series of interactions based on sets of meanings held by the participants. Cicourel argues that it is the meanings held by police officers and juvenile officers that explain why most delinquents come from working class backgrounds.

The first stage is the decision by the police to stop and interrogate an individual. This decision is based on meanings held by the police of what is ‘strange’, ‘unusual’ and ‘wrong’. Whether or not the police stop and interrogate an individual depends on where the behaviour is taking place and on how the police perceive the individual(s). Whether behaviour is deemed to be ‘suspicious’ will depend on where the behaviour is taking place, for example an inner city, a park, a suburb. If a young person has a demeanour like that of a ‘typical delinquent’ then the police are more likely to both interrogate and arrest that person.

The Second Stage is that the young person is handed over to a juvenile delinquent officer. This officer will have a picture of a ‘typical delinquent’ in his mind. Factors associated with a typical delinquent include being of dishevelled appearance, having poor posture, speaking in slang etc. It follows that Cicourel found that most delinquents come from working class backgrounds.

When middle class delinquents are arrested they are less likely to be charged with the offence as they do not fit the picture of a ‘typical delinquent’. Also, their parents are more able to present themselves as respectable and reasonable people from a nice neighbourhood and co-operate fully with the juvenile officers, assuring them that their child is truly remorseful.

As a result, the middle class delinquent is more likely to be defined as ill rather than criminal, as having accidentally strayed from the path of righteousness just the once and having a real chance of reforming.

Cicourel based his research on two Californian cities, each with a population of about 100, 000. both had similar social characteristics yet there was a significant difference in the amount of delinquents in each city. Cicourel argued that this difference can only be accounted for by the size, organisation, policies and practices of the juvenile and police bureaus. It is the societal reaction that affects the rate of delinquency. It is the agencies of social control that produce delinquents.

Discussion Questions

Q1 – Do you agree that the whole criminal justice system is basically biased against the working classes, and towards to middle classes?

Q2 – From a research methods point of view, what research methods could you use to test this theory?

3 – The Consequences of Labelling

Labelling theorists are interested in the effects of labelling on those labelled. They claim that, by labelling certain people as criminal or deviant, society actually encourages them to become more so.

In this section I cover:

    • Primary and Secondary Deviance (Edwin Lemert)
    • The Deviant Career, the Master Status and Subcultures (Howard Becker)
    • Labelling and the Self-Fulling Prophecy applied to education (Howard Becker and Rosenthal and Jacobson)
  • Labelling theory applied to the Media – Moral Panics, Folk Devils and Deviancy Amplification (Stan Cohen)

If the material below seems a little samely – that’s because it’s all subtle variations on the same theme!

Primary and Secondary Deviance

Edwin Lemert (1972) developed the concepts of primary and secondary deviance to emphasise the fact that everyone engages in deviant acts, but only some people are caught being deviant and labelled as deviant.

Primary deviance refers to acts which have not been publicly labelled, and are thus of little consequence, while secondary deviance refers to deviance which is the consequence of the response of others, which is significant.

To illustrate this, Lemert studied the the coastal Inuit of Canada, who had a long-rooted problem of chronic stuttering or stammering. Lemert suggested that the problem was ’caused’ by the great importance attached to ceremonial speech-making. Failure to speak well was a great humiliation. Children with the slightest speech difficulty were so conscious of their parents’ desire to have well-speaking children that they became over anxious about their own abilities. It was this anxiety which lead to chronic stuttering.

Lemert compared the coastal Inuit which emphasised the importance of public speaking to other similar cultures in the area which did not attach status to public-speaking, and found that in such culture, stuttering was largely non-existence, thus Lemert concluded that it was the social pressure to speak well (societal reaction) which led to some people developing problems with stuttering

In this example, chronic stuttering (secondary deviance) is a response to parents’ reaction to initial minor speech defects (primary deviance).

Labelling, The Deviant Career and the Master Status

This is Howard Becker’s classic statement of how labelling theory can be applied across the whole criminal justice system to demonstrated how criminals emerge, possibly over the course of many years. Basically the public, the police and the courts selectively label the already marginalised as deviant, which the then labelled deviant responds to by being more deviant.

Howard Becker argued that the deviant label can become a ‘master status’ in which the individual’s deviant identity overrules all other identities. Becker argues that there are 5 stages in this process:

  1. The Individual is publicly labelled as a deviant, which may lead to rejection from several social groups. For example, if someone is labelled a junkie they may be rejected by their family.

  1. This may encourage further deviance. For example, drug addicts may turn to crime to finance their habit.

  1. The official treatment of deviance may have similar effects. EG convicted criminals find it difficult to find jobs.

  1. A deviant career may emerge. The deviant career is completed when individuals join an organised deviant group. This is the stage when an individual confirms and accepts their deviant identity.

  1. This is the stage at which the label may become a master status, overriding all other forms of relationship outside the deviant group.

Labelling Theory Applied to Education

Labelling theory has been applied to the context of the school to explain differences in educational achievement (this should sound familiar from year 1!)

Within Schools, Howard Becker (1970) argued that middle class teachers have an idea of an ‘ideal pupil’ that is middle class. This pupil speaks in elaborated speech code, is polite, and smartly dressed, He argued that middle class teachers are likely view middle class pupils more positively than working class pupils irrespective of their intelligence. Thus teachers positively label the students most like them.

There is also evidence of a similar process happening with African Caribbean children. Sociologists such as David Gilborn argue that teachers hold negative stereotypes of young black boys, believing them to be more threatening and aggressive than White and Asian children. They are thus more likely to interpret minor rule breaking by black children in a more serious manner than when White and Asian children break minor rules.

Rosenthal and Jacobsen (1968) argued that positive teacher labelling can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy in which the student believes the label given to them and the label becomes true in practise. They concluded this on the basis of a classic ‘Field Experiment’ to test the effects of teacher labels, which consisted of the following:

  • Stage one – tested the IQ (intelligence) of all pupils in the school

  • Stage two – gave teachers a list of the top 20% most intelligent pupils. However, this list was actually just a random selection of student names

  • Stage three –One year later those students who teachers believed to be the most intelligent had improved the most.

  • Stage four –Concluded that high teacher expectation had resulted in improvement (= the self-fulfilling prophecy)

Labelling Theory Applied to the Media

Key Terms: Moral Panics, Folk Devils and The Deviancy Amplification Spiral

Labelling theory has been applied to the representation of certain groups in the mainstream media – Interactionists argue that the media has a long history of exaggerating the deviance of youth subcultures in particular, making them seem more deviant than they actually are, which creates a ‘moral panic’ among the general public, which in turn leads to the authorities clamping down on the activities of those subcultures, and finally to the individuals within those subcultures responding with more deviance.

A moral panic is “an exaggerated outburst of public concern over the morality or behaviour of a group in society.” Deviant subcultures have often been the focus of moral panics. According to Interactionists, the Mass Media has a crucial role to play in creating moral panics through exaggerating the extent to which certain groups and turning them into ‘Folk Devils’ – people who are threatening to public order.

In order for a moral panic to break out, the public need to believe what they see in the media, and respond disproportionately, which could be expressed in heightened levels of concern in opinion polls or pressure groups springing up that campaign for action against the deviants. The fact that the public are concerned about ‘youth crime’ suggest they are more than willing to subscribe to the media view that young people are a threat to social order.

The final part of a moral panic is when the authorities respond to the public’s fear, which will normally involve tougher laws, initiatives and sentencing designed to prevent and punish the deviant group question.

The term ‘moral panic’ was first used in Britain by Stan Cohen in a classic study of two youth subcultures of the 1960s – ‘Mods’ and ‘Rockers’. Cohen showed how the media, for lack of other stories exaggerated the violence which sometimes took place between them. The effect of the media coverage was to make the young people categorise themselves as either mods or rockers which actually helped to create the violence that took place between them,which further helped to confirm them as violent in the eyes of the general public.

4 – Labelling and Criminal Justice Policy

Labelling theory believes that deviance is made worse by labelling and punishment by the authorities, and it follows that in order to reduce deviance we should make fewer rules for people to break, and have less-serious punishments for those that do break the rules.An example of an Interactionist inspired policy would be the decriminalisation of drugs.

According to Interactionist theory, decriminalisation should reduce the number of people with criminal convictions and hence the risk of secondary deviance, an argument which might make particular sense for many drugs offences because these are often linked to addiction, which may be more effectively treated medically rather than criminally. (The logic here is that drug-related crime isn’t intentionally nasty, drug-addicts do it because they are addicted, hence better to treat the addiction rather than further stigmatise the addict with a criminal label).

Similarly, labelling theory implies that we should avoid ‘naming and shaming’ offenders since this is likely to create a perception of them as evil outsiders and, by excluding them from mainstream society, push them into further deviance.

Reintegrative Shaming

Most interactionist theory focuses on the negative consequences of labelling, but John Braithwaite (1989) identifies a more positive role for the labelling process. He distinguishes between two types of shaming:

  • Disintegrative shaming where not only the crime, but also the criminal, is labelled as bad and the offender is excluded from society.

  • Reintegrative shaming by contrast labels the act, but not the actor – as if to say ‘he has done a bad thing’ – rather an ‘he is a bad person’.

A policy of reintegrative shaming avoids stigmatising the offender as evil while at the same time making them aware of the negative impact of their actions on others. Victims are encouraged to forgive the person, but not the act, and the offender is welcomed back into the community, thus avoiding the negative consequences associated with secondary deviance.

Braithwaite argues that crime rates are lower where policies of reintegrative shaming are employed.

Evaluation of Labelling Theory

Labelling theory emphasises the following

– That the law is not ‘set in stone’ – it is actively constructed and changes over time

– That law enforcement is often discriminatory

– That we cannot trust crime statistics

– That attempts to control crime can backfire and may make the situation worse

– That agents of social control may actually be one of the major causes of crime, so we should think twice about giving them more power.

Criticisms of Labelling Theory

– It tends to be determinstic, not everyone accepts their labels

– It assumes offenders are just passive – it doesn’t recognise the role of personal choice in committing crime

– It gives the offender a ‘victim status’ – Realists argue that this perspective actually ignores the actual victims of crime.

– It tends to emphasise the negative sides of labelling rather than the positive side

– It fails to explain why acts of primary deviance exist, focussing mainly on secondary deviance.

– Structural sociologists argue that there are deeper, structural explanations of crime, it isn’t all just a product of labelling and interactions.

Revision Bundle for Sale

If you like this sort of thing, then you might like my Crime and Deviance Revision Bundle

It contains

  • 12 exam practice questions including short answer, 10 mark and essay question exemplars.
  • 32 pages of revision notes covering the entire A-level sociology crime and deviance specification
  • Seven colour mind maps covering sociological perspective on crime and deviance

Written specifically for the AQA sociology A-level specification.

Related Posts

My main page of links to crime and deviance posts.

The labelling theory of crime was initially a reaction against consensus theories of crime, such as subcultural theory 

Labelling theory is one of the major in-school processes which explains differential educational achievement – see here for in-school processes in relation to class differences in education.

Labelling Theory is related to Interpretivism in that it focuses on the small-scale aspects of social life.

Advertisements
Posted on Leave a comment

Sociology in the News (1)

Application of sociological theories and concepts to contemporary news events*

Jamie Oliver’s in shock over the government’s child obesity strategy – childhood obesity, caused by lack of exercise and eating too much sugary food is an increasing problem in Britain, but apparently the government isn’t going to put bans on companies advertising junk food to children.

Supporting evidence for the continued relevance of Sue Palmer’s Toxic Childhood, and you also could interpret this as supporting evidence for the broad Marxist idea that fast-food company profits trump child well-being, or evidence of the impotence of governments to implement social policy in a post-modern age.

*A new theme I’m working on – to try and bash out a weekly-ish post applying some sociology to at least three news items once a week.

NB – I got the idea for a weekly round up from ‘The Week‘ which selects out the highlights of the previous weeks’ news with commentary – IMO it’s the most efficient way to keep up with news events because you miss out on all of the hype, anticipation, repetition and just non-news that you get with daily broadcasts.

Posted on Leave a comment

AS and First Year A Level Sociology – Whole Course Overview

An overview of the entire course for AS and first year A level sociology covering the following ‘modules’:

The overview below is taken directly from the AQA’s scheme of work and broken down further into more sub-topics to make it more teachable/ learnable. Within each ‘module’ there are about 7 sub-topics, and any of which could (although not necessarily) form the basis of one essay question, so you need to be able to write on each sub-topic for a solid 30 minutes.

This will relevant to most teachers and students teaching the AQA syllabus, unless you do an alternative option to families and households (which I don’t cover!)

My advice is that students generally need at least one side of revision notes for each of the subtopics below, with three-five points/ explanations/ examples and with evaluations (e.g. one side for Functionalism, another for Marxism etc…)

Education

Education brief

  1. Perspectives on Education

    1. Functionalism

    2. Marxism

    3. Neoliberalism and The New Right

    4. New Labour (a response to the New Right)

    5. Postmodernism

  1. In school process and education

    1. Teacher Labelling and the Self Fulfilling Prophecy

    2. School organisation (banding and streaming)

    3. School Type, School Ethos and the Hidden Curriculum

    4. School Subcultures

    1. Pupil Identities and the Education System

  1. Education Policies

    1. The strengths and limitations of successive government education polices:

      1. 1944 – The Tripartite System – brief

      2. 1965 – Comprehensivisation – brief

      3. 1988 – The 1988 Education Reform Act

      4. 1997 – New Labour’s Education Policies

      5. 2010 – The Coalition and the New New Right’s Education Policies

    1. Evaluating Education Policies

      1. To what extent have policies raised standards in education?

      2. To what extent have policies improved equality of opportunity?

      3. Perspectives on selection as an educational policy

      4. Perspectives on the increased privatisation of education

      5. How is globalisation affecting educational and educational policy?

  1. Social Class and Education

    1. Material Deprivation

    2. Cultural Deprivation

    3. Cultural Capital Theory

    4. In-School Factors

    5. The strengths and limitations of policies designed to tackle working class underachievement

  2. Gender and Education

    1. Out of school factors which explain why girls do better than boys in education

    2. In-School factors which explain why girls do better than boys in education

    3. Explanations for gender and subject choice

    4. Feminist Perspectives on the role of education in society

    5. The strengths and limitations of policies designed to tackle gender differences in educational achievement

  3. Ethnicity and Education

    1. Cultural factors which might explain ethnic differences in educational achievement

    2. In-School Factors which might explain ethnic differences in educational achievement

    3. The strengths and limitations of policies designed to tackle ethnic differences in educational achievement

Methods in Context

Here you need to be able to assess the strengths and limitations of using any method to research any aspect of education.

The different methods you need to be able to consider include –

1. Secondary Documents

2. Official statistics

3. Field Experiments

4. Lab experiments

5. Questionnaires

6. Unstructured Interviews

7. Overt Participant Observation

8. Covert Participant Observation

9. Non Participant Observation

The different aspects of education you might consider are

Researching how the values, attitudes, and aspirations of parents contribute to the achievement of certain groups of children

• Why boys are more likely to be excluded than girls

• Why white working class boys underachieve

• Exploring whether teachers have ‘ideal pupils’ – whether they label certain groups of pupils favourably!

• Assessing the relative importance of cultural deprivation versus material deprivation in explaining underachievement

• Assessing the success of policies aimed to improve achievement such as ‘employing more black teachers’

Families and Households

AS Sociology Families and Households

  1. Perspectives on Families

1.1 Functionalism

1.2 Marxism

1.3 Feminisms

1.4 The New Right

1.5 Postmodernism and Late Modernism

1.6 The Personal Life Perspective

  1. Marriage and Divorce

2.1: Explaining the trends in marriage

2.2: Explaining the trends in divorce

2.3: Perspectives on the consequences of declining marriage and increasing divorce

2.4: Examining how marriage, divorce and cohabitation vary by social class, ethnicity, sexuality and across generations.

3. Family Diversity

3.1 – The underlying causes of the long term increase In Reconstituted families, Single parent families, Multi-generational households, Single person households and ‘Kidult’ households.

3.2 Perspectives on the social significance of the increase of all of the above (covered in 3.1).

3.3 – The extent to which family life varies by ethnicity, social class and sexuality.

4. Gender Roles, Domestic Labour and Power Relationships

4.1. To what extent are gender roles characterised by equality?

4.2. To what extent is the Domestic Division of Labour characterised by equality?

4.3. Issues of Power and Control in Relationships

4.4. To what extent has women going into paid work resulted in greater equality within relationships?

5. Childhood

5.1 – To what extent is ‘childhood socially constructed’

5.2 – The March of Progress view of childhood (and parenting) – The Child Centred Family and Society?

5.3 – Toxic Childhood and Paranoid Parenting – Criticisms of ‘The March of Progress View’

5.4 – Is Childhood Disappearing?

5.5 – Reasons for changes to childhood and parenting practices

Topic 6 – Social Policy

6.1 You need to be able to assess the effects of a range of policies using at least three key perspectives

• The New Right

• New Labour

• Feminism (Liberal and Radical)

6.2 You need notes on how the following policies affect men and women and children within the family

• Changes to the Divorce law

• Tax breaks for married couples

• Maternity and paternity pay

• Civil Partnerships

• Sure Start – early years child care

Topic 7: Demography

7.1: Reasons for changes to the Birth Rate

7.2: Reasons for changes to the Death Rate

7.3: The consequences of an Ageing Population

7.4: The reasons for and consequences of changes to patterns of Migration

Research Methods

Factors effecting choice of research method copy

  1. The Factors Affecting Choice of Research Method – Theoretical, Ethical and Practical Factors.Introduction to Research Methods – Basic types of method and key terms

  1. Secondary Quantitative Data – Official Statistics

  1. Secondary Qualitative Data – Public and Private Documents

  1. Experiments – Field and Laboratory

  1. Interviews – Structured, Unstructured and Semi-Structured

  1. Observational Methods – Cover and Overt Participant and Non-Participant Observation

  1. Other methods – e.g. Longitudinal Studies

  1. Stages of the Research Process

Crucial to the above is your mastery of the TPEN structure

  1. Theoretical factors – Positivism, Interpretivism, Validity, Reliability, Representativeness

  1. Practical factors –Time, Money, funding, opportunities for research including ease of access to respondents, and the personal skills and characteristics of the researcher.

  1. Ethical factors – Thinking about how the research impacts on those involved with the research process: Informed consent, ensure confidentiality, be legal and ensure that respondents and those related to them are not subjected to harm. All this needs to be weighed up with the benefits of the research.

  1. The Nature of the Topic studied. Some topics lend themselves to certain methods and preclude others!

 

Posted on 49 Comments

What Percentage of Your Life Will You Spend at Work?

I was extremely disappointed with the results returned when I typed the question above into Google – so I thought I’d do the calculations myself.

NB – I’ve limited my definition of work to mean ‘paid employment’! 

Average working hours UK

If you work for the entirety of your adult life until pensionable age in the UK then you will be engaged in some form of paid employment from the age of 18 years to of age to 68 years of age, which is an equivalent of 50 years of paid-employment.

If we take the average amount of hours worked per week, which was 39.2 hours in 2014 according to the annual survey of hours and earnings, then you will work a total of 92 120 hours in the course of your working life (based on a rough calculation of 39.2 hours *(52-5 = 47 weeks to take account of holidays)*50 years).

Expressed as terms of a percentage of your life, this 39.2 hours a week spent working is equivalent to

  • 14% of your total time over the course of a 76 year period (based on the average projected life expectancy of 76 for people born in the year 2000 according to the ONS’s National Life Tables for the United Kingdom.)
  • 23.3% of your total time during the course of a 50 year working-life period
  • 21% of your total waking hours over a 76 year lifespan, assuming 8 hours of sleep a night.
  • 35% of your total waking hours over a 50 year working-life period assuming 8 hours of sleep a night
  • 50% of your total waking hours during any given working day.

Of course the above amount of time actually spent working will vary depending on a variety of factors, not least on your income and expenditure, but also on the generosity of your parents, any inheritance you might receive, returns on investments, and any time you spend on benefits, but the most crucial variable (or combination of variables) which determines how many hours you are going to work over the course of your life is, for most people, the amount of income you earn in relation to your expenditure.

In short, the less you spend in relation to your income, then the less income you need, and the fewer hours, days, weeks, months and years (whichever is the least painful way of counting it!) you will need to work.

The maths behind this (thanks to Jacob Lund Fisker) is actually surprisingly simple – If you take home £20 000 a year, spend £18 000 and save £2000, then it will take you 9 years to save up enough to live for a year (£2000 *9 = £18000).

If you can inverse this ratio, and save £18 000 a year and get used to living off only £2000 then if you work for one year you will have saved enough to live for another 9 years.

If you look at this over the course of a working life, if you can keep the first scenario up (saving £2000/ year) then over 45 years you would save enough to live off for five years, meaning you could retire 5 years earlier, at 62 years of age. In the second example, you could work for 5 years and then retire on your savings at the age of 23, albeit on a lower income.

The first ‘hypothetical’ example is pretty close to the norm in the UK today. In 2012-13 the average personal annual income after tax for the 50th percentile income-earner was £18 700, while the average annual expenditure for the middle quintile of single person households in 2013 was £16016, leaving a potential savings capacity of approximately £2700 a year for those of middling income and expenditure. (based on the ONS survey of personal income and Equivalised income.)

The second example above is, for most of us, going to remain hypothetical because it is just too extreme. However, consider the half way situation – If, on an average annual take-home salary of £20 000 you can learn to live off £10 000 a year and save £10 000 – you could potentially only work for 25 years…. meaning you could retire at age 43.

Related Posts

How to Avoid Working for a Living

Experiments in alternative living (1) – or 5 ways to avoid spending less than £250K on housing

15 Seriously disturbing facts about your job (in which they cite 90 000 hours, which is similar to the figure I got)

Posted on 1 Comment

Families in the UK – Seven Interesting Statistics

What’s family life like in the UK today? Below is a statistical overview of family life in the UK – covering such things as households types, and marriage statistics.

1. There were 12.4 million married couple families in the UK in 2015, representing two thirds of all family-households 

changes to household structure UK 2005 to 2015

For all the talk of the decline in the nuclear family, the statistics suggest the traditional, married nuclear family is still the predominant family type.

However, of the 12.4 million married family households, only 4.7 million of them have dependent children, while 7.8 million of them are without dependent children. So if we’re taking about numbers of ‘classic nuclear family households – 4.7 million is only about 35% of the total number of family households (18.7 million)

Also, the statistics above only show family households, they don’t include single person households, which make up about 30% of all households in the UK today.

2. There were 27 million households in the UK in 2015  and one-family households accounted for just over half of them

Household types uk

3. In 2013 29% of all households in the UK were single person households

Single-Person-Households-UK.jpg

These are mostly people aged over 65 (who are mainly females). The number of people aged over 40 living alone is increasing, while the number of younger people living alone is actually decreasing, partly because….

4. The number of 16-34 year olds living with their parents has seen a recent rapid increase in recent years

Figure 6- Young adults aged 15 to 34 living with their parents, 1996 to 2015.png

In 1996 there were ‘just’ 5.8 million young people living with their parents. By 2015 this had increased to 6.7 million

5. The marriage rate has almost halved since the 1970s

marriage statitics

In the early 1970s, there were over 400 000 weddings a year, but this steadily fell to under 250 000 in the 2000s. 2009-2012  saw a small increase in the marriage rate, but from 2013 marriage rates seem to be going back down again!

6. In 2012 the mean age of marriage was 36.5 years for men and 34.0 years for women 

age of marriage

7. In 2015 Lone Parent Family Households were 8 times more likely to be workless than two-parent family households 

worklessfamilies

This goes a long way to explaining why lone parent families are more likely to suffer poverty compared to dual-parent households

 

Sources

Families and Households 2015 (Office for National Statistics)

Nine Facts about Marriage (Office for National Statistics)

Posted on 2 Comments

Education as a Strategy for International Development

What is the state of global education? What are the barriers to providing universal education for all, and how important is education as a strategy for international development and economic growth? Can western models of education work for developing countries, or are more people-centred approaches more appropriate and/ or desirable?

Education: A Global Portrait

Ensuring inclusive and quality education for all is objective number four of the United Nation’s new Sustainable Development Goals

Under this objective The United Nations notes that:

Obtaining a quality education is the foundation to improving people’s lives and sustainable development. Major progress has been made towards increasing access to education at all levels and increasing enrollment rates in schools particularly for women and girls. Basic literacy skills have improved tremendously, yet bolder efforts are needed to make even greater strides for achieving universal education goals. For example, the world has achieved equality in primary education between girls and boys, but few countries have achieved that target at all levels of education.

Four specific challenges are identified:

  • Enrollment in primary education in developing countries has reached 91 per cent but 57 million children remain out of school
  • More than half of children that have not enrolled in school live in sub-Saharan Africa
  • An estimated 50 per cent of out-of-school children of primary school age live in conflict-affected areas
  • 103 million youth worldwide lack basic literacy skills, and more than 60 per cent of them are women

Infographic_Quality_Education_for_All_Web

Some of the specific targets for 2030 include:

  • Ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes
  • Ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education
  • Ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university
  • Eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations

http://www.globaleducationfirst.org/infographics.html

The United Nations argues that Massive Aid Injections are Required to promoteducation

The United Nations estimates that to achieve SDG 4 developing countries would need to increase their education expenditure by an average of 50%, which they will not be able to afford by 2030, resulting in a funding gap of $39 billion, which will need to be met by outside investors.

infographic_3infographic_4

Education in Developing and Developed Countries: A Comparison

Looking at the global picture is one thing, but looking at statistics country by country provides a much better idea of the differences between developed and developing countries in terms of education.There are a number of indicators used to measure progress in education and just some of these include:

  • The primary enrollment ratio.
  • The mean number of years children spend in school.
  • Attendance figures (at primary and secondary school and in tertiary education).
  • Literacy rates (which can be for youth or adults).
  • National Test Results (e.g. GCSE results)
  • Performance in international tests for international comparisons – such as the PISA tests.
  • The percentage of GDP spent on education

(The main sources for data on education come from the United Nations, UNICEF, and The World Bank.)

A selected breakdown of some of these statistics shows the enormous differences in education between countries:

Ethiopia Kenya India  The UK(6th in world) 
Youth Literacy Rate Male 62.00% 82.00% 88.00% 100%
Youth Literacy RateFemale  47.00% 80% 74.00% 100%
Primary attendance  65.00% 74.00% Male 98%Female 85% 100%
Secondary attendance  16.00% 40.00% Male 58%Female 48% 100%
GDP PPP $1200 $1800 $4000 $36000
%of GDP spent on education 4.70% 6.00% 3.30% 5.8%

In the UK, The government spends nearly £90 billion a year on education, employing over 400 000 teachers (all of whom have to be qualified)and over 800 000 people in total in the education system. Education is compulsory from the ages of 4 to 18, meaning every single child must complete a minimum of 14 years of education, and the majority of students will then go on to another 2-3 years of training in apprenticeships or universities. In the primary and secondary sectors, billions of pounds are spent every year building and maintaining schools and schools are generally well equipped will a range of educational resources, with free school meals provided for the poorest students.

Since the 1988 education act, all schools are regularly monitored by OFSTED and thus every school head and every single teacher is ultimately held to account for their results, and the system is very much focused on getting students qualifications – GCSEs and A levels, of which there is a huge diversity. At the end of secondary school, around 70% of students have 5 good GCSEs, but even those who do not achieve this bench mark have a range of educational and training options available to them.

It might sound obvious to say it, but there is also a generalised expectation that both students (and staff) will attend school – attendance is monitored regularly and parents can be fined and even sent to jail if their children truant persistently.

In addition to getting students GCSEs, schools are also required to a whole host of other things – such as teach PSHE lessons, prepare students for their future careers,foster an appreciation for multiculturalism,monitor ‘at risk students’ and liaise with social services as appropriate. Schools are also supposed to differentiate lessons to take account of each individual students’ learning needs.

Of course there are various criticisms of the UK education system, but after 16 years of schooling the vast majority of students come out the other end with significantly enhanced knowledge and skills. Finally, it is worth noting that girls do significantly better than boys in every level of the education system.

Things are very different in many poorer countries around the world – For a start the funding difference is enormous, more than a hundred times less per pupil in the poorest countries; many school buildings are in a terrible state of repair, and many schools lack basic educational resources such as text books. Attendance is also a lot worse, especially in secondary school, and in some regions of India 25% of teaching staff simply don’t show up to work (while reporting very high levels of job satisfaction). A third significant difference is that there is no OFSTED in developing countries, and so schools aren’t monitored- teachers and schools aren’t held accountable for student progress, which is reflected in the fact that a huge proportion of students come out of the education system with no qualifications.

 

How Can Education Promote Development? 

There is no doubt that education can promote development…

Firstly, education can combat poverty and improve economic prosperity. For every year at school education increases income by 10% and increases the GDP growth rate by 2.5%.Teaching children to read and write means they are able to apply for a wider range of jobs – and potentially earn more money, rather than being limited to subsistence agriculture.

Secondly education can be used to improve health.School can be used to pass on advice about how to prevent diseases and thus improve health and they can also be places where free food and vaccinations can be administered centrally (as is the case in the UK) – improving the health of a population.

Thirdly, education can combat gender inequality.This is illustrated in the case study of Kakenya Ntaiya, who, at the age of 11 agreed with her father that she would undergo FGM if he allowed her to continue on to secondary school, which she did, eventually winning a scholarship to study in the United States. There she learnt about women’s rights and returned to her village in Kenya and set up a girls only school where currently 100 girls are protected from having to undergo FGM themselves.

Fourthly, education can get people more engaged with politics. You need to be able to read in order to engage with newspapers and political leaflets and manifestos, which typically contain much more detailed information than you get via radio and televisions. Thus higher literacy rates could potentially make a country more democratic – democracy is positively correlated with higher levels of development

Barriers to Providing Education in Developing Countries

 

There are many barriers to improving education in developing countries which means that development through education is far from straightforward…

Read the section below and complete the table at the end of the section. 

Firstly, poverty means that developing countries lack the money to invest in education -this results in a whole range of problems – such as very large class sizes, limited teaching resources, a poor standard of buildings, not enough teachers – let alone the resources to monitor the standards of teaching and learning.

This is well illustrated in this video of Khabukoya primary school in a remote region of Kenya, near the Ugandan border.

Kenya spends 6% of its GDP on education and has a comparatively good level of education for Sub-Saharan Africa – yet this school appears to have been forgotten about. The school has 400 students and yet only one classroom with a concrete floor and desks, with all other classrooms having mud floors, and being so small that students are practically sitting on top of each other. Funding is so limited that the school relies of volunteer labour to partition the too-few classrooms they have, a task which is being done with mud and water, and to make matters worse half of the students are infected with jiggers, a parasitic sand flea which burrows into the skin to lay its eggs, which causes infections which are often disabling and sometimes fatal.

Secondly, the high levels of absenteeism in primary and especially secondary schools is a major barrier to improving literacy. Most developing countries have enrollment ratios approaching 100%, but the actual attendance figures are much lower. Even in India, a rapidly developing country, the female secondary attendance rate is 50%, while in Ethiopia, it is down at 16%.

Thirdly, the persistence of child labour– The International Labour Organisation notes that globally, the  number of children in labour stands at 168 million(down from 246 million in 2000) and 59 million of these are in Sub-Saharan Africa.Agriculture remains by far the most important sector where child labourers can be found (98 million, or 59%), but the problems are not negligible in services (54 million) and industry (12 million) – mostly in the informal economy.

Fourthly, poor levels of nutrition in the first 1000 days of a child’s life significantly reduces children’s capacity to learn effectively – malnutrition leads to stunting(being too short for one’s age) which affects more than 160 million children globally and more than 40% of under-fives in many African countries including Somalia, Uganda and Nigeria. According to the World Health Organisation children who are stunted achieve one year less of schooling than those who are not.

Fifthly, War and ConflictThe United Nations notes that 34 million, or more than half all children currently not in education, live in conflict countries, making conflict one of the biggest barriers to education. Many of these children will be internally displace refugees, but on top of this there are approximately 7 million children living as refugees in non-conflict countries (stats deduced from this Guardian article) and most of these receive a poor standard of education. In conflict countries, the vast majority of humanitarian aid money is spent on survival, with only 2% going towards education.

751JPG_education_and_conflict_final-01

One of the most interesting examples of conflict preventing education (at least ‘western education especially for girls’) is the case of Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria– A terrorist organisation who gained international notoriety in 2014 when they kidnapped 200 girls from their school dormitory.

Sixthly, Patriarchal cultural values– means many girls the world over suffer most from lack of education.Pakistan and India are two countries which have significant gender inequalities in education provision – In India (one of the BRIC nations) the percentage of girls attending school lags 10% points behind that of boys, a situation which is even worse in Pakistan, the country is which Malala Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban for attending school. In this video she describes some of the fear tactics the Taliban use to prevent girls going to school – such as bombing schools which allow girls to attend and public floggings of women who allow their daughters to attend school.

Although the starkest examples of gendered educational opportunities are to be found in Asia, there is also inequality in Africa and this blog post talks about gendered barriers to education in East Africa

A seventh barrier is the lack of teachers to improve education –the link has a nice interactive diagram to show variation by country.Somewhat ironically this link takes you to an article which discusses how increasing primary education has led to problems as this has led to an increase in demand for secondary education – which many African countries are too poor to provide!

Finally, an eighth barrier is widely dispersed populations in rural areas means children may have difficulty getting to school.

Is a Western Style of Education Appropriate to Developing Countries?

Many of the education systems in developing countries are modelled on those of the west – in that they have primary, secondary and tertiary sectors, they emphasise primary academic subjects such as English, Maths, Science and History and they have external systems of exams which award qualifications to those who pass them. The idea that a Western style of education is appropriate to developing countries is supported by Functionalists/ Modernisation Theorists and generally criticised by Dependency Theorists and People Centred Development Theorists.

Functionalist thinkers (Functionalism is the foundation of Modernisation Theory) argue that Western education systems perform vital functions in advanced industrial societies. These functions include (a) taking over the function of secondary socialisation from parents (b) equipping all children for work through teaching a diverse range of academic and vocational subjects, (c ) sifting out the most able students through a series of examinations so that these can go on to get the best jobs and (d) providing a sense of belonging (solidarity) and National Identity. Functionalists thinkers such as Emile Durkheim and Talcott Parsons saw national education systems with their top-down national curriculums and examinations as being essential in advanced societies.

It follows that Modernisation Theorists in the 1950s also saw the establishment of education systems as one way in which traditional values could be broken down. If children in developing countries are in school then they can be taught to read and write (which their parents couldn’t have done in the 1950s given the near 100% illiteracy rate at the time), and the brightest can be filtered out through examinations to play a role in developing the country as leaders of government and industry.

According to modernisation theory, school curriculums should be designed with the help of western experts and curriculums and timetables modelled on those of Western education systems – with academic subjects such as English, Maths and History forming core subjects in the curriculums of many developing countries.

However, there are a number of criticisms of the Modernisation Approach to education.

Dependency theorists have pointed out that most people in developing countries do not benefit from western style education. According to DT, education was used in many colonies as a tool of control by occupying countries such as Britain, France and Belgium. The way this worked was to select one quiescent minority ethnic group and provide their children with sufficient education to govern the country on behalf of the colonial power. This divisive legacy continued after colonies gained their independence, with school systems in developing countries proving an extremely sub-standard of education to the majority while a tiny elite at the top could afford to send their children to be educated in private schools, going on to attend universities in the USA and Europe, and then returning to run the country as heads of government and industry to maintain a system which only really benefits the elite, while the majority remain in poverty.

One potential solution to the exclusion faced by the majority of children from education in the developing world comes in the form of Non Governmental Organisations such as Action Aid, who are best known for their Sponsor a Child Campaign, in which any individual in the west can pay £20/ month (or thereabouts) which can fund a child through education. One example of a homegrown version of this charity is the Parikrma Humanity Foundation which essentially ignores the daunting numbers of uneducated children and just focuses on educating one child at a time from the slums of India, to a relatively high level, so that they can escape their poverty for good.

People Centred Development theorists criticise Modernisation Theory because of the fact that Western style curriculums are not appropriate to many people in developing countries. In short, the situations many people in poor countries find themselves in mean they would benefit more from a non-academic education, and more over one that is not explicitly designed to smash apart their traditional societies. According to PCD if people from the west want to help with education in developing countries, they should find out what people in developing countries want and then work with them to meet their educational needs. One excellent example of this is the Barefoot education movement which teaches women and men, many of whom are illiterate, in North West India to become solar engineers and doctors in their own villages, drawing as far as possible on their traditional knowledge. There is one condition people must meet in order to become teachers in this school – they must not have a degree.

It might also be the case that modern technology today means that Western Education systems are simply not required in developing countries. Bill Gates (Head of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the largest Philanthropic charitable organisation in the world which controls over $30 billion of assets, and has a similar amount pledged by wealthy individuals) – who (again unsurprisingly) believes that developing online education courses will change the face of global education in the next 15 years because they can be accessed by anyone with a smartphone. One of the leaders in the development of online courses is the Khan Academy- whose strapline is ‘You can learn anything… for free.

An interesting experiment which suggests this might just work is Sugata Mitra’s ‘hole in wall experiment’  in which he simply put computers in a hole in a wall in various slums and villages around India and just left them there – children picked up how to surf the internet in a matter of days, and even learned some rudimentary English along the way. Mitra’s theory is that children can teach themselves when they work in groups, and his intention is to develop cloud based educational material which will enable children to teach themselves a whole range of subjects.

One problem with leaving education to People Centred Development Approaches or leaving it to children to educate themselves on the internet is that this will probably leave children in poorer developing countries lagging behind in terms of the skills and qualifications required to compete for the best paying jobs in the international job market. In comparison to developing countries, developed countries spend a fortune on their education systems and children spend considerably longer in education, and there is an undeniable link between the successful education systems in South East Asia and the hours invested in education by South East Asian children in countries such as China, South Korea and Singapore and the rapid growth of these economies over the past decades. The problem with this approach is that its success may well be related to the culture of the region which emphasises the importance of individual effort in order to achieve through education.

Posted on 3 Comments

The Spirit Level – A Summary

The-Spirit-LevelThe Spirit Level – Why more equal societies almost always do better – Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett

This book is relevant to both the module on Crime and Deviance and Theory Methods

Based on thirty years of research – Its findings are that almost every modern social and environmental problem is moire likely to occur in a less equal society (where the difference between rich and poor is greater). This is one of the most important areas of social and political research – the issue of inequality goes to the heart of the political divide between left and right.

Wilkinson and Pickett use a wealth of statistical data to compare inequality in several European countries (the research mainly focuses on Europe with a few other countries thrown in too) and the reserachers use different measurements of inequality to increase valdity. The main section of the book outlines the ‘costs of inequality’ in which the authors show that greater levels of inequality are positively correlated with higher rates of ill- health, lack of community life, violence, drug problems, obesity, mental health problems, long working hours and big prison populations. The final section, which I haven’t read yet, goes on to suggest some policy solutions.

Check out this video for a humorous overview of the book –

The book has its supporters -see  http://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/resources/slides – where you can download slides of the book as an education tool to help spread the word about the ills that inequality ’causes’

Also see http://unrepentantcommunist.blogspot.com/2009/06/spirit-level-by-pickett-and-wilkinson.html for an interesting supportive blog and interesting discussion thread about the virtues and otherwise of equal/ unequal societies.

Have a look at this video where Wilkinson discusses some of the details of the book –

However, the book has come under some heavy criticism – see http://spiritleveldelusion.blogspot.com/ which refers to a recent book called ‘The Spirit Level delusion’ – with ’20 questions for the Wilkinson and Picket’ – to which they respond.

If you click on this link, it takes you to a criticism of the Spirit Level by a guy called Peter Saunders (a right wing sociologists, a rare breed!) – http://www.thersa.org/events/audio-and-past-events/2010/the-spirit-level

To give you a gist of the criticisms – one arguement is that the relationship between inequality and some factors such as homicide is skewed dramatically by a few exceptional countries – such as the USA in the case of Homicide. You can listen to a debate between the authors of these two studies at the link above. A second similar arguement is that some countries have been left out of the cross national comparisons.

This debate shows you an interesting example of how even ‘scientific’ quantitative sociology – in the form of cross national comparisons struggles to be objective – because when you are dealing with cross national comparisons, there are so many variables to choose from, one has to be selective – and these selections are open to bias (in this case which countries to include and exlude.

One interesting thing worth thinking about  is that although the debate is all about whether the relationship between inequality and social problems can be scientifically proven – one can also make a moral arguement against inequality -perhaps it is fair to say that wealth inequalities like we have in modern Britain are wrong just because no one human being is so talented or so productive that they can legitimately end up being thousands of times wealthier than the average person.

At the end of my ‘brief review’ I’ve realised that I don’t really know whether to believe the spirit level’s data or not – it seams to me that those on the left, commited to fighting inequaility, are likely to believe it, while those on the right are more likely to criticise it.

Posted on 3 Comments

Seven Examples of Field Experiments for Sociology

Field experiments aren’t the most widely used research method in Sociology, but the examiners seem to love asking questions about them – below are seven examples of this research method.

Looked at collectively, the results of the field experiments below reveal punishingly depressing findings about human action –  they suggest that people are racist, sexist, shallow, passive, and prepared to commit violence when ordered to do so by authority figures.

The experiments are outlined in the form of a timeline, with the most recent first providing contemporary examples of field experiments, and those towards the end the more classic examples I’m sure everyone’s has heard of (Rosenthal and Jacobsen for example).

2014 – The Domestic Abuse in the Lift Experiment

A Swedish social experiment recently showed only one person of 53 reacting to what seemed like a scene of domestic abuse in a lift.

Researchers set up a hidden camera in a lift while members of the group played an abusive boyfriend and his victim. The male actors swore at the women and physically assaulted them while members of the public were in the lift

Most of the lift’s passengers ignored the abuse, while only one out of 53 people intervened in an attempt to stop it.

The experiment was organised by  STHLM Panda, which describes itself as “doing social experiments, joking with people and documenting the society we live in”.

2010 – The Ethnicity/ Gender and Bike Theft Experiment

In this experiment two young male actors, dressed in a similar manner, one white the other black take it in turns to act out stealing a bike which is chained to a post in a public park. The two actors (one after the other) spend an hour hacksawing/ bolt-cuttering their way through the bike lock (acting this out several times over) as about 100 people walk by in each case.

The findings – when the white actor acts out the bike-theft, only 1/100 step in and take immediate action. Several people actually casually ask ‘is that your bike’, but just laugh it off when the actor tells them it isn’t.

When the black actor acts out the same thing, within seconds, a crowd of people has gathered to stop him, with many whipping out their mobiles to phone the police. When the experiment is reset, the same thing happens again.

Towards the end of the film, a third actor steps in – an attractive young, blonde female – people actually help her to steal the bike!

This experiment seems to have quite good reliability – there are some examples of similar experiments which get similar results…

  • The ‘Social Misfits’ experiment where a white guy then a black guy act out a car theft on a public road – the white guy lasts 30 mins and ‘no one cares’, but not so with the black-guy.

2009 – The Ethnicity and Job Application Experiment

Researchers sent nearly 3,000 job applications under false identities in an attempt to discover if employers were discriminating against jobseekers with foreign names.

CV
X – Boleslav would be twice as likely to get an interview if he called himself Brian

They found that an applicant who appeared to be white would send 9 applications before receiving a positive response of either an invitation to an interview or an encouraging telephone call. Minority candidates with the same qualifications and experience had to send 16 applications before receiving a similar response.

Researchers from the National Centre for Social Research, commissioned by the Department for Work and Pension (DWP), sent three different applications for 987 actual vacancies between November 2008 and May 2009. Using names recognisably from three different communities – Nazia Mahmood, Mariam Namagembe and Alison Taylor – false identities were created with similar experience and qualifications. Every false applicant had British education and work histories.

All the job vacancies were in the private, public and voluntary sectors and were based in Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Glasgow, Leeds, London and Manchester. The report concludes that there was no plausible explanation for the difference in treatment found between white British and ethnic minority applicants other than racial discrimination.

It also found that public sector employers were less likely to have discriminated on the grounds of race than those in the private sector (a handy argument against privatisation and neoliberalism here, at least if you’re not racist!)

2008 – The £5 Note Theft and Social Disorder Experiment

In this (slightly bizarre sounding) experiment an envelope containing a £5 note was left poking out a letterbox, in such a way that the £5 note was easily visible. The researchers did this first of all with a tidy garden, and later on (similar time of day) with litter in the garden – on the first occasion 13% of people took the envelope, on the second, the percentage doubled to 25% – suggesting that signs of physical disorder such as littering encourage deviant behaviour.

broken windows theory

The experiment was actually a bit more complex – for the full details see the Keizer et al source below – this was also actually one of six experiments designed to test out Wilson and Kelling’s 1996 ‘broken windows theory’.

1971 – The Stanford Prison Experiment

In which college students take on the role of either prison guards or prisoners and spend time in an artificial prison. The Stanford Prison Experiment was meant to last 14 days, it had to be stopped after just six because the ‘guards’ became abusive and the ‘prisoners’ began to show signs of extreme stress and anxiety.

In 1971, psychologist Philip Zimbardo and his colleagues set out to create an experiment that looked at the impact of becoming a prisoner or prison guard. The researchers set up a mock prison in the basement of Standford University’s psychology building, and then selected 24 undergraduate students to play the roles of both prisoners and guards.

The simulated prison included three six by nine foot prison cells. Each cell held three prisoners and included three cots. Other rooms across from the cells were utilized for the prison guards and warden. One very small space was designated as the solitary confinement room, and yet another small room served as the prison yard.

The 24 volunteers were then randomly assigned to either the prisoner group or the guard group. Prisoners were to remain in the mock prison 24-hours a day for the duration of the study. Guards, on the other hand, were assigned to work in three-man teams for eight-hour shifts. After each shift, guards were allowed to return to their homes until their next shift. Researchers were able to observe the behavior of the prisoners and guards using hidden cameras and microphones.

While the prisoners and guards were allowed to interact in any way they wanted, the interactions were generally hostile or even dehumanizing. The guards began to behave in ways that were aggressive and abusive toward the prisoners, while the prisoners became passive and depressed. Five of the prisoners began to experience such severe negative emotions, including crying and acute anxiety, that they had to be released from the study early.

The Stanford Prison Experiment demonstrates the powerful role that the situation can play in human behaviour. Because the guards were placed in a position of power, they began to behave in ways they would not normally act in their everyday lives or in other situations. The prisoners, placed in a situation where they had no real control, became passive and depressed.

1968 – Rosenthal and Jacobson’s ‘Self-Fulfilling Prophecy’ Experiment

The aim of this research was to isolate and measure the effect of high teacher expectation on the educational performance of pupils.

Self fulfilling prophecy

Rosenthal and Jacobson carried out their research in a California primary school they called ‘Oak School’. Pupils were given an IQ test and on the basis of this R and J informed teachers that 20% of the pupils were likely ‘spurt’ academically in the next year. In reality, however, the 20% were randomly selected.

All of the pupils were re-tested 8 months later and he spurters had gained 12 IQ points compared to an average of 8.

Rosenthal and Jacobsen concluded that higher teacher expectations were responsible for this difference in achievement, providing supporting evidence for labelling theory and the ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’.

1924-32 The Hawthorne Factory Experiments

The Hawthorne Electricity Factory Works  in Chicago commissioned a study to see if their workers would become more productive in response to various changes in their working environment – such as lighting levels, cleanliness of the factory and relocating work stations.

The workers’ productivity seemed to improve with any changes made, and slumped when the study ended. It was suggested that the productivity gain occurred because the workers were more motivated due to the increased interest being shown in them during the experiments.

The study gave rise to the term ‘The Hawthorne Effect’ which refers to any short-term changes in behaviour which result from participants knowing they are taking part in an experiment (rather than changes in behaviour being a result of changes to independent variables).

NB – As the video outlines, this study was huge – really more than just a ‘field experiment’ it involved the workers being interviewed about their feelings about work. 

Related Posts 

Field Experiments in Sociology – covers the strengths and limitations of the method

An Introduction to Experiments – covering key terms related to experiments, such as hypotheses, and dependent and independent variables.

Sources 

Swedish social experiment shows people ignoring domestic abuse in a lift – The Guardian

Double standard bike thief experiment highlights racism – The Root

Undercover job hunters reveal huge race bias in Britain’s workplaces – The Guardian

Keizer et al – The Spreading of Disorder – Science Express Report

The Stanford Prison Experiment – The official web site of the experiment (possibly the only experiment that’s also a celebrity?!)

The Pygmalion Effect (details of Rosenthal and Jacobson’s study) – Wikipedia

The Hawthorne Effect – Wikipedia

Posted on 8 Comments

Alternative lifestyles – or how to avoid working for a living

So you’ve just finished your A  levels and you don’t fancy doing or a degree or getting a job, what other options are there?

As tutors we generally package post-18 options into two camps: degree versus apprenticeships/ training towards a particular career, with the possible ‘adventurous’ option of a gap year.

But what if, like me when I was 18*, you don’t find the idea of either doing a degree or getting a job particularly appealing, what if you don’t want to be normal and spend almost 100 000 hour over the course of your adult-life working to just earn money, what are the alternatives?

Below are six strategies that some people are currently employing (excuse the pun) to ‘earn money’ or simply get by in life which don’t involve doing paid-work for someone else, let alone requiring a degree. 

Disclaimer – NB I don’t in any way recommend that you do any of these things, they are merely examples of things some people do, which should prompt discussion about whether doing a degree or an apprenticeship is worth it, relative to these alternative options.

1 – Learn to live without money

Two good examples include Mark Boyle: The Moneyless Man and Dan Suelo: The Man who Lived Without Money

2 – Perpetual travelling

The most obvious way to travel perpetually, at least in Europe, is to buy a van. It’s not that difficult – for inspiration have a look at Mike Hudson’s blog Van Dog Traveller – he quit his job in 2013, spent five months converting a van (for cheap) and has been travelling around Europe, including a quick jaunt to Morocco, ever since.

van dog traveller

For advice on how to convert vans, check out Campervan Life which has lots of examples of people who have converted vans, and live in vans full-time. If you’re worried about how to earn money or live cheaply, all of that is covered on the above two sites, it’s generally part of the whole perpetual-traveller scene.

Incidentally, living in a van may sound like it’s an extreme strategy for saving money, and possibly only for top-knot sporting, fire-juggling, surfing dudes like Mike above,  and you’d be forgiven for making this mistake given that one of the first search returns for ‘living in a van uk’ takes you to a forum called ‘UK HIPPY‘, but there are even members of the relatively conservative caravan club who have lived in their caravans long-term, combining this with either owning a small no-frills apartment, or house-sitting.

If the above example’s a bit too local and not adventurous enough for you, then why not try sailing around the world and documenting it on YouTube like one Australian couple’s currently doing on ‘La Vagabonde’

alternative careers

Somehow they’ve managed to convince almost 1000 people to subscribe to them through Patreon (see below) and are currently earning $6790 per video uploaded, and they post one a week, which gives them a cool $20K a month to sail on, or around $250 000 a year.

They even take this piss a bit – one of her videos is of her on a week’s yoga retreat in Bali, while the boat’s in dry dock somewhere in Australia.

Downsides to perpetual travelling 

  • It does require some initial seed money to buy your van or boat.
  • Most ordinary people will have to find some way of making money as they travel – see below for ideas
  • Making money through documenting your travels may only be an option if you’re insanely attractive. Research has revealed that approximately 80% of people who follow travel blogs do so because they want to perv on the authors, not because they’re interested in their travels, although there’s no actual evidence to back this up.

 

3 – POOSHing and WWOOFing

ThePOOSH is an exchange site through which you can volunteer your labour to help people self-build their eco-projects around the globe, in exchange for free lodging (which will probably be camping) and food. Many of these projects are ‘low-impact’ design and don’t take a lot of skill to build – so you shouldn’t be any more out of your depth than the people building them.

Expect to be cutting, sawing, pounding (earth into tyres), stirring, plastering, and probably doing a lot of lugging about too. You’ll probably find thePOOSH Facebook page easier to browse rather than the web-site, which is a bit ‘not very professional’, but that’s forgiveable given that this is such a niche DIY exchange.

 

How to avoid getting a job
The beginnings of a rammed-earth tyre home

If the hard-labour involved with physical construction is too much for you, then ThePOOSH’s big sister network WWOOF (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) Might be more your cup of tea. WWOOF says of itself….

‘WWOOF UK holds a list of organic farms, gardens and smallholdings, all offering food and accommodation in exchange for practical help on their land.  WWOOF is an exchange – you volunteer your help in exchange for food, accommodation and an opportunity to learn about organic agriculture. As a WWOOFer, you can expect to work a reasonable number of hours – between 20 and 35 hours in a week is suggested. In order to volunteer on WWOOF host farms in the UK you must become a member of WWOOF UK.  Membership lasts for 1 year.’

how to avoid getting a job
WWOOFers sharing their love of compost and polytunnels

Downsides to POOSHing and WWOOFing 

  • You need to be reasonably fit. I did have this down as an option for when I finish my current 20 year career break from life and resume living in a few years, but the older I get, the less-appealing the idea of hard physical labour seems.
  • Of course you don’t actually earn any money from this, you’re just working for board, and you’re reliant on your hosts to actually feed and house you properly.
  • From a leftist (Marxist) perspective, this voluntary work is somewhere on the softer side of the slave-labour spectrum, but that doesn’t seem to bother most members of the green movement – especially couples in their late 40s who have managed to accumulate sufficient capital to buy a small holding or some land and go and ‘live the dream’, but if you can put up with that, this does offer you a free way of life, assuming you get fed enough. 

 

4 – Lifestyle Vlogging

Vanilla Vloggers Zoella and Alfie
Vanilla vloggers Zoella and Alfie

LIfestyle vloggers Zoella and Alfie come across as a painfully ordinary **, and neither of them have anything of value to say about anything important. Thankfully for them there are millions of people around the world who are similarly shallow and lacking in imagination, and so they’ve managed to make a fortune by simply documenting their vacuous lives as consumers, which their similar-vanilla-fans seem to enjoy.

Case in point – in the video below (posted less than a week ago from time of writing and with over 600, 000 views already – which represents some serious coin in YouTube terms) Zoella and Alfie go and do some watersports.

The point here however is not to criticise the lack of content, the point is to point out that if this pair of completely average vanilla vloggers can make a living through not really doing anything very much, why not give it a go yourself before you try actually earning your money?

If the idea of making money by exposing your vacuousness makes you uncomfortable, then you could always develop a vlog or blog as a marketing tool and produce a series of blogs or vlogs which have an actual, worthwhile focus, by providing useful information to people and/ or selling goods and services. Of course here we’re moving away from ‘alternatives’ to careers, and more into the ordinary realms of setting up your own business – but I thought it’s worth including, because it’s still not the same as working for someone else.

Look on YouTube – there are plenty of people who have set up as personal trainers, or food writers, or life-coaches who are making money out of blogging about something they’re interested in.

make money vlogging

One of my favourite ‘alternative lifestyle’ vloggers that does have something worthwhile to say is Jesse Grimes – who is currently building his own house, and ‘Permaculturing’ an acre of land in Montana. If you want to get into vlogging, maybe think about doing something of some value like he does….?

Downsides (of vacuous Zoella style) lifestyle vlogging

  • It’s very unlikely you’ll earn enough money survive by producing a Zoella lifestyle vlog in which you simply document yourself playing at life.
  • If you do become successful, not only are you exposing your vacuousness to the world, you’ll also attract haters and sufficient numbers of people will think you’ve forgone your right to privacy to make your life a misery.
  • When you hit 30 there’s a chance you’ll have a crisis when you realise you’ve contributed nothing whatsoever of value to society.
  • As with travel blogging, you probably have to be insanely attractive, or insanely unattractive, or extreme in some sort of way to ‘earn’ a living through vlogging.

 

5. Matched betting

Matched betting is legal, tax-free and not actually gambling. It takes a while to get your head around it, but it is possible to make £500 risk-free in a month, although you do need a few hundred quid ‘seed money’ to start out. You might end up making less than that, but with a little bit of time each day (20 mins is sufficient) you should be able to earn at least £100 a month, and with practice more.

with a matched betting strategy you can keep about £25 of the free £30 risk free
with a matched betting strategy you can keep about £25 of the free £30 risk free

The Matched Betting Blog (run by a guy who is making around £8K a year doing this) defines ‘Matched betting as ‘a simple betting strategy that enables us to take advantage of bookmaker’s offers and incentives. We simply place a bet at a bookmaker and then bet against the same outcome at a betting exchange. By covering all possible outcomes, we make guaranteed risk-free profits regardless of the result.’

Oddsmonkey is a good place to get started  – there are five free guides which will show you how to make an estimated £45 in under an hour, and after that, you will need to pay £15 a month in a subscription fee.

 

The 'oddsmatcher' on oddsmonkey - it does help if you're mathematically inclined!
The ‘oddsmatcher’ on oddsmonkey – it does help if you’re mathematically inclined!

 

Matched-betting isn’t for everyone – some of the downsides are:

  • You need to double-check every bet you make and lay – one small slip could cost you tens or hundreds of pounds and wipe out your ‘earnings for a whole week’
  • You need a few hundred quid to start off – you need to open several betting accounts – maybe dozens to make the most of every offer, and because so much money is floating around, you need hundreds in ‘betting capital’ to make things tick over smoothly.
  • There is the risk of ‘gubbing’ – having your account frozen by bookmakers – they keep tabs on people – and if all you’re betting on is the special free bet offers, they’ll close you down – hence you need to make ‘mug bets’ to cover your trail (all of this is covered on the two web sites above)
  • It’s little bit seedy!

6 – Create something and crowdsource funding through Kickstarter or Patreon

Kickstarter is basically about selling your project to people before it’s completed.

As a creator, you outline what your project is, put together a short promotional video and some blurb illustrating what the project is about, decide how much funding you require to see your project through, and offer rewards to backers who will pledge different amounts of money to get various levels of reward which they’ll receive when your project is completed.

kickstarter

In the example above, the creator’s rewards (which are listed further down his Kickstarter page include a ‘Facebook’ shout-out for $5, a download of the movie for $10 and then upwards. As you can see, at almost $40K he hasn’t done too badly…

Patreon is similar to Kickstarter, but rather than people paying you once you’ve finished one massive project, with Patreon, people agree to provide ongoing funding for the smaller-scale things you’re already creating (so Patreon’s funding per song, Kickstarter, funding by album)

Patreon says of itself… 

For creators, Patreon is a way to get paid for creating the things you’re already creating (webcomics, videos, songs, whatevs).  Fans pledge a few bucks per month OR per thing you release, and then you get paid every month, or every time you release something new (whether it’s on SoundCloud, YouTube, your own website, or anywhere).

For patrons, Patreon is a way to pay your favorite creators for making the stuff you love.  Instead of literally throwing money at your screen (trust us, that doesn’t work), you can now pledge a few bucks per thing that a creator makes.  For example, if you pledge $2 per video, and the creator releases 3 videos in February, then your card gets charged a total of $6 that month.  This means the creator gets paid regularly (every time she releases something new), and you become a bonafide, real-life patron of the arts

Conclusions – Should you do a degree and/ or pursue a regular career, or do something different instead?

I wouldn’t dismiss the idea of pursuing a career (I’ve actually found my own personal career in teaching A level Sociology quite rewarding), or doing a degree (I’ve got 3 of them), in fact I’d recommend either, when and if the time’s right for you. If that time isn’t now, why not leave it a while and pursue one or more of the above alternatives for a while?

There are of course various other alternatives to a regular career which you could consider, and if I’ve got time I’ll bash out another post covering the pros and cons of options such as becoming a monk or marrying the money/ becoming a prostitute. 

Appendices 

*When I were a lad things were easy: after I’d finished my A levels and my Dad justifiably booted me out the house shortly afterwards, I spent 3 months doing farm-work, 3 months homeless and begging and then a further 18 months in a house but on the doll, mostly tossing about chilling, juggling (I got quite good) and reading, before starting a degree in Anthropology and American Studies a full 2 years and 3 months after my A levels had finished.

The problem these days is that you’ll never compete with agricultural workers from Eastern Europe for fruit picking jobs (and fruit-picking sucks); and the state and people in general aren’t quite as generous, which rules out the doll and begging as viable alternatives, so you’d need to be more somewhat more creative to avoid doing either a degree or getting a job for a couple of years or more.

** In fact they’re not normal – Zoella at least was privately educated, which means she comes from the wealthiest 7% of households – which probably goes some way to explaining why she had the confidence and time to start vlogging in the first place – the private school gave her the confidence, and daddy (probably, more likely than mummy) would have paid for the stuff crucial to her style of vlogging. If she’d have been poorer, she would have had to have spend more time working for a living, and less time making pointless videos. I don’t know about Alfie’s background, I can’t be bothered to research it.

Posted on 2 Comments

Is it worth doing a degree?

Is it worth spending £30, 000 or more and three years of your life doing a degree?

If we limit our analysis to purely financial considerations and if we focus on ‘median earnings’ – then yes, on average, it is definitely still worth doing a degree: graduates currently earn about £8K a year more on average than non graduates (graduate labour market statistics 2015)

graduate-earnings

However, the gap between the earnings of graduates and non-gradates is closing – in 2005 graduates earned about 55% more than non graduates, while in 2015 they only earned 45% more.

graduate-earnings-2015

If this trend continues, then a degree will be worthless by 2045, at least if we measure the value of a degree purely in economic terms.

A recent YouGov survey (May 2017) found that only 61% of students felt that their degree was worth the money, so possible this is evidence that what students feel is coming into line with the more objective financial trends above…

Of course there’s a whole load of other factors you need to consider to answer the above question fully! But I wanted to keep this post focused on just one dimension.

Further reading