Thursday, October 20, 2005

Are you in the elite?

There were two good posts from yesterday concerning the defining characteristics of the elite. The first, from Laura at 11D, tries to explain the cultural differences between the elite and the not elite (for lack of a better term). I can completely relate to her situation. We also live in a blue-collar suburb of a large metropolis. The people around me are plumbers, carpenters, insurance adjusters, real estate agents, administrative assistants, nurses, and the like. There are no "professionals"--lawyers, doctors, architects, etc. Usually, I stand out at the bus stop with the kids and their parents, but for the last two days, I haven't. The bus stop is right in front of our house. I can watch through the window. And frankly, I've run out of things to say to my neighbors. The regulars are a grandmother, a firefighter, a nurse, an administrative assistant, and a part-time real estate agent. Sure, we exchange pleasantries. "Nice day." "How was your weekend?" But, yuck. Sometimes I can't stand that.

One of the main differences I've noticed between myself and my neighbors, even the ones who *are* professionals (but have working class roots) is what they have planned for kids college education vs. what I have planned. I fully expect my children to go somewhere--well, elite--you know, Harvard, Dartmouth, Duke, Swarthmore. Even when their children are quite smart and obviously could look forward to attending a great college, my neighbors talk about them going to a local university that has a bad reputation, academically speaking. We're surrounded by schools like UPenn, Haverford, Bryn Mawr, Swarthmore, but they don't even think of those. And forget thinking of similar schools elsewhere. I'm always a little shocked by this. Just like Laura's aggressive stance toward her school district, I have an aggressive stance toward college admission. I know how it works, how to help my children navigate the system. This is knowledge my neighbors lack. When they did go to college (and many of them didn't), they went to a nearby school. Most of them have lived in this general area their whole lives.

The other post, by Elizabeth at Half-Changed World, concerns the rates of SAHM's among the poor vs. the elite. My experience in this neighborhood, probably with people mostly falling below the $75,000 mark is that there are few SAHMs. I do know one doctor's wife a few blocks over who stays at home full time. She has five kids. In the neighborhood I moved from, where incomes were much higher, there were more SAHMs. Interestingly, among the faculty, there are a lot of male faculty with SAHMs. From an income perspective, it doesn't make sense, but from a work load perspective, it makes absolute sense. I wonder what kinds of factors play into rates of SAHMs. Income can't be everything.