Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Monday, October 18, 2010
Scrutinizing the Elite, Whether They Like It or Not
Jennifer S. Altman for The New York Times
Scholars including from left, Sudhir Venkatesh, Dorian Warren and Shamus Khan, attended the first Elites Research Network conference.
Published: October 15, 2010
THE rich are sitting firmly in the public cross hairs, especially as the economy continues to stumble. Reports that Wall Street bonuses will again be high, and the debate in Congress over tax increases for the wealthy, just add to the outrage.
- Bucks Blog: Studying the Rich (October 15, 2010)
So it was a serendipitous time for Columbia University to convene the first Elites Research Network conference last week. The conference drew in scholars focused on inequality across academic disciplines, like economics, political science, sociology and history.
In the academic world, this was remarkable. As several of the scholars acknowledged, there has traditionally been some unease in talking about the elite, let alone researching them.
“When we study the poor, it’s relatively easy,” said Sudhir Venkatesh, a professor of sociology at Columbia and the author of “Gang Leader for a Day” (Penguin Press, 2008). “The poor don’t have the power to say no. Elites don’t grant us interviews. They don’t let us hang out at their country clubs.”
But Dorian Warren, an assistant professor of political science at Columbia, said the increasing concentration of wealth, moving from the top 10 percent of Americans to the top 1 percent, has made this the right time to look more closely at the group. “We have to understand what’s going on at the top,” Mr. Warren said.
The discussion quickly went beyond examining how those with more had traditionally exercised control over those with less. Many of the younger scholars said their goal was to do more than just look at tax returns and see who sat on boards. Instead, they said, they want to start looking at the relationships between the elite and the non-elite.
“If you look at the poor as a problem, you’ll be angry at elites or you’ll expect them to come up with a solution,” said Mr. Venkatesh, who took the most pragmatic line. “You have to come in accepting that there will always be poor people in society and there will always be wealthy people in society, and neither of the two reached that status by their own efforts.”
That’s not the usual description of this issue. But otherwise, you risk viewing the rich as rapacious thieves or seeing the poor as lazy freeloaders.
That said, there were other academics who hewed to an older model of power dynamics. Jeffrey Winters, associate professor of political science at Northwestern University, talked of the wealthy in America in terms of oligarchy. And he advanced an argument against what he called the “income defense industry.”
The term referred to the accountants, lawyers and financial advisers employed by the wealthy — and the merely affluent — to manage their financial affairs. Mr. Winters argued that this group was hurting the non-elite by minimizing tax collection. He estimated that $70 billion was lost yearly just from offshore accounts.
There is no denying that members of the elite have a lot of money and would like to hang on to as much of it as they can. But that’s true of most people.
Olivier Godechot, a French academic on the sociology panel, presented research that quantified just how skewed the increase in wealth at the very top has become. Mr. Godechot, a researcher at the National Center for Scientific Research in France, said that two professions — finance and business services — accounted for almost all of the increase in income inequality.
D. Michael Lindsay, assistant professor of sociology at Rice University, said his research showed that many of the people now considered elite in America did not start out that way. He is conducting what he described as the largest study ever of top leaders in America, having talked to over 500 so far across business, nonprofits and academia.
He said he had found that a privileged upbringing did not matter as much as generally thought. Nor, he said, did many of the top leaders inherit large sums of money. While many went to top colleges and a large number attended Harvard Business School, the biggest determining factor of whether someone moved into the elite was an early career opportunity.
Being able to look beyond their specialty early — as opposed to being highly specialized their entire career and then thrust into a leadership role — distinguished great leaders more than any inherent advantage in their upbringing, he said.
“These people had a chance to be a generalist early on, as opposed to being specialists their whole career,” Mr. Lindsay said. “They had that experience in their early 30s or 40s.”
Some of the conference presenters took note that they themselves were almost entirely from Ivy League and other elite universities — only one was from a state university.
“When we send our kids to the Brookline schools, we’re not making a judgment about the Boston schools,” said Michèle Lamont, a sociology professor at Harvard University. “There are unintended consequences to our actions.”
Mr. Warren put it more bluntly: “I did not come up as a child of privilege, but I got into Yale for graduate school. I’m going to want to do the same for my kids. It’s not a malicious intent to exclude others; it’s a rational impulse to maintain the advantage.”
Those at the conference defined the elite as people with power over others, and the debate was framed largely in economic terms. But professors at an Ivy League university are part of an elite, even if their salaries do not reflect it.
Shamus Rahman Khan, a conference organizer and assistant professor of sociology at Columbia, seemed to be most at ease with the conflict. The son of a Pakistani father and Irish mother who both emigrated to the United States, he said he came from a wealthy but not elite family. His father, a successful surgeon, paid his son’s way to the St. Paul’s School, a top boarding school.
Yet when Mr. Khan arrived there in the mid-1990s, he said he lived in the “minority students dorm.” He used that experience and a later teaching stint at St. Paul’s to write a book on the nature of advantage, “Privilege: The Making of an Adolescent Elite at St. Paul’s School,” which will be published by Princeton University Press in January.
“Is it morally responsible for you to get your kids into very expensive schools if it will advantage them?” Mr. Khan said. “It’s hard not to do it. But by doing it, you’re not explicitly squirting some other kid in the eye with pepper spray. It’s more subtle.”
His concern is what the concentration of wealth means for American society in the future. He said he wondered whether the post-World War II era in America — as defined by prosperity and rising income levels — was a historical anomaly and was coming to an end.
He cited data showing that the United States now had the second-lowest level of intergenerational income mobility in the world, after England.
“If we lose this truly American thing — that you can become anything if you just work at it — then you’re really going to lose what makes America America,” he said. “It already appears that it will take a tremendous amount of time for people to bring their families out of poverty and for the wealthy to fall from the advantages they have.”
A version of this article appeared in print on October 16, 2010, on page B6 of the New York edition.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
While money is not everything, it is an important part of any college student to know he or she is not studying to be in poverty. Don't let the word "engineering" throw you off...if you're half as smart and grew up in Jamaica, you can be an engineer.
See link for list: http://www.payscale.com/best-colleges/degrees.asp
The top 10 are:
|Best Undergrad College Degrees By Salary||Starting Median Salary||Mid-Career Median Salary|
The BOTTOM 10 are:
|Hospitality and Tourism||$37,000||$54,300|
Friday, July 24, 2009
1. Save a mini-emergency fund of $1000.
This money is for the true emergency -- doctor, unplanned car repair, sudden insurance dues, etc -- it is not emergency pizza money or vacation money or shopping money. This money is your buffer against Murphy's Law.
2. Pay off debt. Better yet, do NOT even use credit cards or get into debt as a "smart financial tool".
Debt is the BIGGEST mistake of financial life, even if it's just $100 or $500, especially credit card debt. It becomes addictive and a quick solution to everything. I advise you to pay CASH for everything. How? By saving for things. When you use credit cards, you will overspend because you don't feel the pain of giving out money. Instead of a $10 lunch, you will charge a $25 lunch with a big tip on a credit card. So avoid using credit cards -- instead use CASH or at least, debit cards.
Example: Mozart as you know, was one of the best and famous composers, a child prodigy from age 4. But, did you know he lived a miserable life of constant debt? Why? He was ignorant in the ways of money, and had a habit of trying to impress his peers with his spending. He died at 35. Do NOT follow his example. Intelligence and child prodigy does not mean financial smarts sometimes.
3. Create a 3 to 6 months of expenses savings. This is the full-sized emergency fund to replace Step 1. I realize if you are someone in college, you don't have much expenses regularly. This is the BEST time to start this habit. If you spend on movies and food and clothes, your monthly usage is very low, so create a 3 month spending cushion.
If you are starting your career, begin this lifelong habit. Company firings / layoffs are getting more common. By the time you have a family, this is a MUST-DO. You will have your spouse or your kids depending on you and this 3 to 6 month emergency money to live on.
(AGAIN, this is not your vacation money or shopping money - be sure to save it in a CDs or hard-to-get place.)
So I have share steps 1 to 3. I will add steps 4 to 7 next. Within these 7 steps will be the paths to the other financial tools needed...like insurance, investments, etc..
For now, let's keep it simple.
Each step must be completed, before you can graduate to the next step. Do #1, then #2. You cannot do these steps in parallel.
Be well and prosper!
Friday, July 3, 2009
How? By sharing my life experiences, my knowledge, and my hard-earned wisdom (learned from my personal mistakes ) and what I have learned and read from others -- so that you, my family and my friends can benefit in your own life, and accomplish even more things.
My other wish to make this fun reading for you. I am grouping my personal notes into 4 categories:
1. Wealth - sharing tips and information that allow you to create and enjoy a wealthy life - including one of financial peace and success.
2. Health - sharing what I see has worked and not worked. The focus is on healthy actions and principles from simple things to overall big picture things.
3. Wisdom - this is a challenging category where I hope to share wisdow I have learned or guided me.
4. Fun - While each generation will claim to be hold the best parties or legal vices, that is not my area. My goal is to share the timeless things such as travel, food, and other topics that makes life fun.
I hope to include in my notes and words of wisdom include full use of media like video and voice. I want to share with you as much as I can, so you may have the BEST of wealth, health, wisdom and fun in your life!
So let's begin...